April 13, 2021
JOB OPENINGS RISE AS ECONOMY IMPROVES
In another sign of the improving economy, job openings are rising and the gap between them and the number of unemployed workers is falling. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports job openings each month in its Job Openings and Labor Turnover (JOLTS) series. BLS released the latest data for February this week. It showed that job openings were 7.4 million, that is 268,000 more than in January.

In another sign of the improving economy, job openings are rising and the gap between them and the number of unemployed workers is falling. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports job openings each month in its Job Openings and Labor Turnover (JOLTS) series. BLS released the latest data for February this week. It showed that job openings were 7.4 million, that is 268,000 more than in January.

Big picture: Openings are above their level in February 2020, prior to the pandemic, when they were 7 million. They fell to 4.6 million in April and have been rising since.

At the same time that job openings have been rising, the number of unemployed workers has steadily decreased. Unemployment peaked in April 2020 at over 23 million workers but has fallen to just under 10 million in February.

In April 2020, when unemployment was at its peak and openings were at their nadir, there were 18.5 million more unemployed workers than there were openings. As of February, that gap had shrunk to 2.6 million – a remarkable improvement in less than a year.

The gap is probably smaller now. The March jobs report showed unemployment fell further and there are other indications that the labor market is improving.

Looking ahead: It might not be too much longer before the number of job openings exceeds the number of unemployed workers. As of February, there were 1.35 workers unemployed for every opening. Even if that ratio falls below 1, that won’t mean all workers will be able to find jobs.

Be smart: There remains a skills mismatch in the economy that existed before the pandemic. The skills available workers have do not necessarily match the jobs employers have open. With so many service sector workers losing their jobs, but many openings (even prior to the pandemic) concentrated in business services and healthcare and social assistance, the mismatch poses an obstacle to recovery.

Congress will need to devote resources to retraining if it is to help alleviate this matching problem.

—Curtis Dubay, Senior Economist, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
ABILENE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE APPLAUDS AIRPORT’S ‘MASTER PLAN’
This past Thursday, the City Council approved the airport’s Master Plan, which sets the stage for the next five, ten, and twenty years. 

“Many communities don’t leverage their airport and ours again is one stop from anywhere in the world,” said Doug Peters, Abilene Chamber of Commerce President and CEO. 

The Abilene airport while small, could be seeing come big changes over the next 10-20 years. 

“As important piece of infrastructure for our community as roads and bridges or anything else,” said Peters. 

Peters says the airport is an indicator of how well our economy is doing. 

TEXAS LEGISLATIVE RADAR: PANDEMIC LIABILITY PROTECTION TAKES IMPORTANT NEXT STEP     
By a 29-1 bipartisan vote, Senate advances SB 6 to prevent frivolous COVID-19 lawsuits, providing retroactive civil liability protections for large and small businesses, religious institutions, non-profit entities, healthcare providers, first responders and educational institutions.

The civil liability protections provided in the bill are extended to entities that followed government promulgated standards and protocols, including those that made a good faith effort to follow protocols that constantly changed and evolved as public health experts learned more about the COVID-19 virus.

Having passed the Texas Senate by a 29-1 vote, SB 6 now heads to the Texas House of Representatives for further consideration. Governor Greg Abbott made pandemic liability protections an emergency item for the 87th Legislature.

To follow the progress of the legislation, visit capitol.texas.gov. To read more, click here.
CHAMBER LAUNCHES PROGRAM TO DRIVE SPENDING AT LOCAL BUSINESSES
With several gift giving opportunities coming up soon, like Teacher Appreciation Day, Administrative Assistant Day, and Mother’s Day, the Abilene Chamber of Commerce has a new program aimed at helping local small businesses attract customers.

The chamber’s Keep It Local driven by First Financial Bank initiative aims to drive traffic to locally owned businesses, while giving shoppers options. Chamber President and CEO Doug Peters says new digital gift cards give the recipient the choice from among more than 20 local businesses, "You can determine what denomination you want that to be in, you text that to the recipient and it works just like a debit card, credit card or cash and the incentive comes through the generosity of some of our partners.”

That generosity actually gives a 25 percent bonus to the value of the gift card. Peters says local businesses wanted to incentivize shoppers to spend their dollars in local businesses that have struggled because of the pandemic. “This program will live and operate in perpetuity to make sure that we continue to support those merchants and those jobs that are dependent on local consumers spending money here at home, rather than out of market or online,” Peters said.

The chamber’s website gives instructions of how it can be used and how local businesses can sign up to be part of the Keep It Local program.
HIRE A BULLDOG
Assistant principal for Wylie High School, Reagan Berry, is looking to partner with the Abilene business community through their new program "Hire a Bulldog."

"Our CTE program is quickly growing as well as our partnership with the Abilene community in investing in our students’ future careers. Students have the opportunity to be exposed to many different industries and careers through our CTE program. I would like to provide them an additional step of exposure in partnering with you to create an opportunity board for our students." said Berry.

WISD is searching for local businesses that are willing to hire students, offer internship or allow volunteering. The hope is that students would gain access and insight into an industry and career that they have an interest in pursuing post-graduation.

To learn more about this program or to signup to participate, click here.
SECOND PUBLIC INFORMATION MEETING FOR COVID-19 SMALL BUSINESS GRANT PROGRAM SCHEDULED FOR APRIL 13th
The COVID-19 Small Business Grant Program administered by the Community Foundation of Abilene will provide pandemic-relief grant funding to eligible small businesses impacted by COVID-19 that operate in Abilene, Texas. Applications will be accepted through April 27th.

The second public information meeting for the program will be held via Zoom April 13 at 2 p.m. to answer eligibility and application questions. A registration link for the information session and program details can be found at https://www.cfabilene.org/small-business.

The program is funded through a grant to the City of Abilene from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Coronavirus Aid, Relief Economic Security Act (CARES Act). Businesses with 50 employees or fewer, or microenterprise businesses with up to five 5 employees with a low- to moderate-income (LMI) owner could be eligible.

Grant funds may be used for overhead expenses, rent, utilities, and necessary equipment to continue business operations, among others. Grants from $2,500 up to $50,000 are available. These funds do not need to be paid back.
The program is subject to the availability of funds, compliance with program guidelines and submission of the required application and supporting documentation.

The Abilene Small Business Development Center (SBDC) will assist applicants with the support documentation required for this application. Any small business owner can register for their free services by calling their office at 325-670-0300.

Grant program and application questions may be directed to Kassidy Nygaard at the Community Foundation at 325-676-3883 or knygaard@cfabilene.org.
You don't want to miss these upcoming events for
your business.

APRIL 13 GOVERNMENT CONTRACT TRAINING Have interest in working with the government? Want to learn more about proposal writing techniques and pricing methods? Join us for this full day workshop on April 13 8:00 am - 4:00 pm featuring Sandra Burns, CEO, and Greg Hansen, CFO, of Project Solutions, Inc (PSI). Register here.

APRIL 14 ACRONYM SOUP - GOVERNMENT TERMINOLOGY In Government Contracting there’s an Acronym for everything! SAM, IDIQ, BPA, MAS, MPIN, WAWF, & SDVOSB…just to name a few. Join Northwest Texas PTAC, Program Director Rich Lyles as he takes some of the mystery out of several common acronyms that government market partners are likely to encounter.

APRIL 21 MOCK DISCOVERY REQUEST: A CASE ANALYSIS Perhaps you haven't dealt with electronic discovery for a while/are comfortable with the next steps and/or are just looking for an outside resource to help confirm & support a current or upcoming case. Eide Bailly will be reviewing the discovery process by answering common questions from the electronic evidence standpoint.

APRIL 21 HR TRENDS IN 2021 Eide Bailly's HR Consulting Leaders will discuss inclusion and diversity, the importance of a focus on mental health and well-being, work flexibility, and changes in the areas of recruitment and employee engagement.

APRIL 22 AYP AFTER FIVE We've missed you! Join us at our first in-person networking event of 2021. We'll enjoy gathering again with our young professional community over drinks, eats and overlooking downtown Abilene at the Abilene Chamber of Commerce. Register here.

APRIL 28 ZOOM FOR MEETINGS Are you having issues using Zoom, or are you just looking to get the most out of your remote business meetings? If so, than this training is perfect for you. In this post COVID-19 business environment, learning how to use Zoom is more important than ever. Register here.