The unemployment rate across the country remains high.

With all eyes on the economy, workers are asking how the labor force and unemployment rates are fairing close to home.

While Texas and Erath County rates fallen below national totals, only time will tell if 2010 will end better than last year, when rates had nearly doubled across the board when compared to 2007.

The national employment situation

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, www.bls.gov, the nation's unemployment rate held steady in July. Call it bittersweet - while the numbers are not growing, they are also not declining.

BLS says 14.6 million remained unemployed last month, with the unemployment rate at 9.5 percent. In an Aug. 6 report, the bureau reported that private-sector employment rose by 71,000, but the increase was offset by a decline in federal government and non-farm employment. And the national unemployment rate has seen little change over the last year when the rate was 9.4 percent.

"Total non-farm payroll employment declined by 131,000 in July, and the unemployment rate was unchanged at 9.5 percent," the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Aug. 6. "Federal government employment fell, as 143,000 temporary workers hired for the decennial census completed their work. Private-sector payroll employment edged up by 71,000."

The bureau also reported that the number of long-term unemployed, those jobless for 27 weeks or longer, made up 44.9 percent of unemployed Americans in July, and private sector employment has increased by 630,000 so far this year, with about two-thirds of the gain occurring in March and April.

State statistics

On Friday, BLS said the situation was similar for state unemployment statistics, with little changing in July, but Texas was among a list of states with seasonally adjusted unemployment rates "significantly different from that of the U.S." Texas has reported a preliminary unemployment rate for July of 8.2 percent.

Looking at the last four years, Texas has experienced a steady increase in the labor force and also has seen the unemployment rate increase annually. In July 2007, the state reported a labor force of 11,396,383 with an employment rate of 4.4 percent. The following year, the labor force increased to 11,634,974 and the unemployment rate was reported at 4.9 percent. But in July 2009 as the labor force continued to increase at a rate comparable to the previous year, totaling 11,951,207, the unemployment rate jumped to 7.9 percent.

Looking locally

In Erath and surrounding counties the most current information available through BLS reflect preliminary figures for the month of June.

At home in Erath, the county marked an employment rate increase each June between 2007 and 2009, but June 2010 showed some relief.

In June 2007, the county reported a labor force of 17,894 and an unemployment rate of 4.3 percent. The labor force increased to 18,541 in June 2008 and the unemployment rate rose only slightly to 4.4 percent. The following year, however, Erath's labor force totaled 19,449 and the unemployment rate jumped to 7.4 percent.

Preliminary figures for June of this year show a labor force of 19,159, down by almost 300 in one year with the unemployment rate decreasing to 7 percent.

Looking at 12-month averages, Erath reported an unemployment rate of 3.6 percent in 2007, 3.8 percent in 2008 and 6.3 percent in 2009.

But there may be a little relief in Erath's future with Caporal expected to reopen and bring 200 jobs back to the Stephenville manufacturing facility.

In Comanche County, annual unemployment rate averages also showed an increase from 2007-2009, with rates at 3.8, 3.9 and 6.1 percent at the end of each year. With a preliminary rate of 6.9 percent recorded for June, the six-month average for 2010 sits at just above 6.7 percent in Comanche.

In Hood County, the 2007 average unemployment rate was 4.2 percent in 2007, 4.3 percent in 2008 and jumped to 7.1 percent last year. Year-to-date, Hood's rate is ringing in at a little more than 7.5 percent, with June's preliminary rate showing to be 7.4 percent.

Looking at the same time period, Somervell County recorded an unemployment rate of 4.5 and 4.6 percent in 2007 and 2008. The unemployment rate jumped to 7.0 percent last year, and the year-to-date average shows to be almost 7.8, the highest of the surveyed counties. If the preliminary number holds, June 2010 will have a rate higher than the state, with projections noting an unemployment rate of 8.6 percent in Somervell.