Just in time for Christmas – at least for some – the unemployment picture continues to improve for Brown and surrounding counties, municipal officials said Friday.

“Since July 2009, when the (Brown County) unemployment rate reached an annual high of 7.7 percent, the rate has dropped each month to 7 percent in November,” James Campbell, executive director of the Brownwood Economic Development Corporation, said. “Unfortunately, the county has seen a decline in its total labor force over the past several months, but this trend is also improving.”

Campbell said Brown County’s employment level increased by 125 people between October and November, the month for which statistics were released late last week.

“The trend is very positive and hopefully will continue through the new year,” Campbell said.

Each of the eight counties in this sub-region showed both an increase in employment and a decrease in the unemployment rate from October to November, Campbell said.

“Many of our local companies have either expanded their operations or have plans to do so in 2010,” Campbell added. “I do believe 2010 will be a good year for our state and especially Brown County.”

The BEDC is the economic development arm of the City of Brownwood, approved by voters in 1990 to create jobs. It is funded by a half-cent sales tax.

The 7 percent jobless rate for Brown County is a full percentage point below the average unemployment rate for all of Texas, which was 8 percent in November, according to figures released Friday by the Texas Workforce Commission. And Texas’ rate is a full percentage point below the national average of 9 percent. That was down from the 8.3 percent mark in October.

“A decrease in our unemployment rate, which is a full 2 percentage points below the national average, is a pretty strong validation of the approach we take here in Texas and bears out what employers and national business publications have been saying about our state,” Texas Gov. Rick Perry said. “Over the past two months while the nation as a whole lost 122,000 jobs, Texas gained nearly 70,000 jobs, which is promising news for those Texans who are seeking employment.

“Unemployment is still an issue for too many families, but our state will keep working to cultivate a job-friendly business climate until every Texan who wants a job can have one.”

For Texas, this is the first decrease in the state jobless rate since June 2008, when it fell from to 4.4 percent from 4.5 percent.

“Job growth coupled with a lower unemployment rate indicate movement in a positive direction for Texas,” Texas Workforce Commissioner Tom Paulken, who represents labor, told the Associated Press Friday.

Nationally, just eight states recorded a rise in the unemployment rate for November, signaling the pain in the U.S. labor market may finally be abating, the U.S. Department of Labor announced in response to the statistcs. The 10 percent national figure is down from September’s 10.2 percent.

Most of the country continues to see job losses, but in a potential sign of a turnaround on the horizon employment increased in 19 states. Fifteen states had jobless rates higher than the national average.