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National

Oil Industry Helps Job Growth Hold Steady In Texas

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Thirty-three.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: One potato, egg and cheese.

NATHAN BERNIER, BYLINE: I'm Nathan Bernier in Austin, Texas, home to the state capitol and a regional dish known as the breakfast taco, plus a state unemployment rate now under 7 percent. Madison Allen has been working for the past three months here at Torchy's Tacos.

MADISON ALLEN: And kind of the nice thing about the service industry is it doesn't matter where I go, what city I move to, this is always an option.

BERNIER: It's no secret that energy is the engine that helps drives the Texas economy. But here in Austin, far from the oil and gas fields, the fastest growing employment sector has been leisure and hospitality. Some people love working in restaurants and hotels, while others, like Allen, are looking for a career change.

ALLEN: I'm lucky to be in nursing school because that will be one degree that won't cause me to be in the service industry, even after I graduate...

(LAUGHTER)

ALLEN: ...like everyone else I know, so.

BERNIER: All those friends of hers with college degrees working in the service industry? That's not necessarily the best thing for the Texas economy, according to labor economist Sandy Black at the University of Texas.

SANDY BLACK: Getting stuck out of graduation, out of college, in a lower skilled job than where you should be can have really negative long-run impacts on your career. You're not going to experience the same wage growth. You're not going to experience the same opportunities.

BERNIER: But despite the boom in minimum wage jobs across Texas, there are signs that other sectors, in addition to energy, are getting stronger. You can tell by the cranes dotting the capitol's skyline, for example, that construction is booming here, just like it is across the state. For NPR News, I'm Nathan Bernier in Austin, Texas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.