WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL)—When unemployment numbers shot sky-high at the peak of the pandemic, many wondered if the economy would ever recover and return to pre-COVID conditions, are we finally shaking back nearly three years later?

We’ve hit our lowest unemployment rate since before the COVID pandemic and President and CEO of the Wichita Falls Chamber of Commerce, Ron Kitchen said that we can expect those numbers to drop slightly throughout 2023.

We all remember the pandemic, I mean how could we forget, millions of lives were lost along with millions of jobs causing Texas to hit a 12.9 percent unemployment rate at the beginning of the pandemic?

“Texas was leading the nation in unemployment, we saw less loss than a lot of the states that shut down, we saw states like Michigan and New York and California we see skyrocketing unemployment that stayed up, Texas saw some short term spikes,” Kitchens said.

But nearly three years later and Kitchen said there’s a light at the end of the tunnel seeing that more than 660-thousand jobs were added in Texas last year.

“I think great leadership that didn’t overreact, the fact that Texas is growing when we look at those states that in a lot of cases overreacted in terms of shutting their economy down those were already states with slow or no growth,” Kitchens said.

Kitchens said one reason unemployment numbers are dropping could be that all the businesses that shut down are now open and operating as they did pre-pandemic or starting a new business.

“The big issue is getting more people into the economy and participating, wages are going up so it’s bringing people back into the workforce that maybe weren’t working but we also have to see people be more flexible,” Kitchens said.

As in utilizing one of the largest job providers in Wichita Falls, Sheppard Air Force Base.

“We have a lot of spouses at Sheppard that need to enter the workforce but some companies have been hesitant to hire somebody that may be leaving in two or three years, they’re no longer hesitant and understand that those are incredible workers and we want to get them in the workforce,” Kitchens said.

Adding more jobs and workers, creating a bigger and more vibrant economy.

For a full breakdown of the unemployment rates for 2022, click here.