Texas showing mixed signals on economic health

DALLAS (AP) - Armando Cornejo learned on his 38th birthday that a three-month layoff from his job as an electrician was over.

His reaction to Thursday's news mirrored the outlook of the Texas economy: He was pleased to be afloat, but unsure how long it'll last.

The Euless man remarks that "there's no more job security" and "you've got to keep your options open."

Texas learned that lesson in the 1980s, when an oil bust shocked the state into the realization that its economy wasn't diverse enough. Analysts say similar lessons from the savings and loan scandal a decade later are playing a role in Texas remaining somewhat insulated from the national economic downturn.

The state has managed to maintain job growth over the past year while 2.6 million jobs have been lost nationally. With foreclosures skyrocketing and home prices plunging in parts of the country, analysts say Texas homes are hanging on to their value.

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Still, there are signs that Texas is getting caught up in the churn of the sputtering national engine.

-The state announced Friday that December was the third month in the past four to suffer job losses, and unemployment hit 6 percent for the first time since 2004.

-State legislators were greeted on the eve of their session's start this month with Comptroller Susan Combs' estimate that tighter consumer spending will lead to a $9 billion budget shortfall.

-Texas is projecting a $447 million shortfall in its unemployment fund by the fall after a temporary suspension last year of a tax that replenishes the fund.


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