SPECIAL REPORT: East Texas businesses raise wages to attract new employees

Special Reports

TYLER, Texas (KETK) Thousands of jobs are available in East Texas, and businesses are competing against each other to hire and retain new employees by raising wages and offering more benefits.

“I wasn’t making enough for me and my family, especially as we were trying to get a new place,” Pancho Ramos, a Henderson resident says. “So, I just started looking somewhere else.”

Ramos is a West Rusk graduate and a new father. He recently left his job as a corrections officer where he was working 70 to 80 hours a week. Ramos is just one of many who are finding better-paying jobs.

“Any able-bodied person that is looking for work can find a job in this economy,” Stephen Lynch, Area Operations Manager for Workforce Solutions East Texas says.

Currently, the unemployment rate in Smith County is sitting at 3.5 percent. The unemployment rate is also relatively low in the Kilgore-Longview area where it sits at four percent. The rate signals a strong East Texas economy, but it means employers have fewer people to choose from.

“It’s a better problem to have than a high unemployment rate for sure,” Victor Valle with the Tyler Economic Development Council says. “Companies are paying people more, because they are having a harder time finding people and maintaining them.”

Sanderson Farms raised the starting hourly wage to 15 dollars an hour after 90 days with the company. The chicken company is currently in the process of hiring up to 1,600 employees.

The Aldi grocery chain is also running advertisements on social media. Starting pay for Aldi employees is currently between $12.70 to $13.90 in Tyler.

“John Soules Foods has increased their wages by 12 percent,” Valle says. “In addition to this, they have increased their employee benefits by eliminating the copay for medical insurance. They’ve also added a doctor on-site two times a week at no cost to the employees.”

According to the recently launched WorkInTexas.com, in Smith County, there are over 3,500 jobs up for grabs. In Gregg County, more than 26 hundred positions are currently available, but those numbers are about to jump dramatically.

“Our recruiting goal in the State of Texas is 200 thousand,” 2020 Census Recruiting Coordinator Mark Youngblood says. “In East Texas, it is about a quarter of that.”

The Federal Government is hiring temporary workers for the 2020 census, but they are facing a different type of challenge.

“We are what you call a gig employer. Ten years ago we didn’t have Uber, Lyft or Amazon Prime drivers,” Youngblood says. “Those are just regular people supplementing their income. “

Census jobs in East Texas can pay anywhere from 12 to 15 dollars an hour.

The new oil boom in West Texas is also leading to more competition with many East Texans leaving to work those jobs. Ramos is one of a lucky few who got a job in the oil industry without having to leave his family.

“It was stressing us out now spending quality time with each other,” Ramos says. “I’m gonna spend more time with my wife and daughter.”

Ramos loves his current job and plans to keep it for a long time.

“I’m gonna stay there, but if more opportunities come I’m gonna take them for my wife and daughter to give them a better life.”

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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