AUSTIN (KXAN) — A sign came Friday that pandemic recovery is overcoming a slowdown: 531,000 jobs were filled last month, according to the U.S. labor department’s monthly report.

The report also indicates the unemployment rate has dropped slightly to 4.6% — the lowest since the pandemic began but still over a full percent higher than the pre-pandemic jobless rate.

That means high-demand industries in Central Texas, like construction, manufacturing and tech, are looking at big employment gaps, and some are expecting to experience a hiring surge for the next few years, as Tesla opens shop.

“It’s exciting,” said Shaun Mahan, Texas division manager for Rosendin Electric, Inc. “But someone has to be there to build that infrastructure. We’re a part of that, and we need people to do that.”

Mahan says right now, they’ve got about 220 electricians at any given moment in Central Texas, and they’d love to get up to 400 or 500 — or even more, as more companies relocate or spring up in the area.

That’s why Rosendin is partnering with Skillpoint Alliance, a nonprofit that provides free training and education programs for skilled trades and manufacturing jobs.

That’s how they got one of their newest hires, Myles Carpenter.

“I was actually a Domino’s Pizza driver,” said Carpenter. He wanted a career with more advancement opportunities and switched circuits to the electric industry.

“Definitely a lot of the growth here was part of why I chose this, as well, with all the construction going on in Austin and Pflugerville area,” Carpenter said.

That’s also the reason why EnergyX chose to move from California to Austin and is now expanding.

“It was between Austin or Silicon Valley, and we said, ‘Austin is the new Silicon Valley.’ And we ultimately decided to come to Austin,” said CEO Teague Egan.

The company sources and processes lithium for batteries that go into electric cars.

“We think that Austin is going to be the center of the renewable energy world, the same way that you think about New York as the center of finance or LA as the center of entertainment or Houston as the center of oil and gas,” Egan said.

He says that gut feeling was proven further last month, after Tesla announced its headquarter move to Austin-Travis County.

“I think that… a lot of the supply chain for electric vehicles and that transition to renewable energy is going to follow Tesla to Austin, and we want to be right here where the action is,” Egan said.

He’s looking to go from 32 employees to 100 over the next year and possibly more after that.

“I think this is the first inning,” he said.

Ramping up training in Pflugerville

Skillpoint Alliance executive director Kevin Brackmeyer says they’ve got a lot of open spots for more people like Carpenter to take advantage of training in skilled trades or manufacturing.

“It is all connected,” said Brackmeyer. “The skilled trades is connected to the manufacturing, manufacturing is connected to the skilled trades.”

On Friday, the nonprofit announced a new initiative aimed at closing the employment gap in Central Texas called the Pflugerville Career Development Challenge.

“It is expected that Pflugerville will still be among the highest rates of unemployment in Texas,” Brackmeyer said.

The initiative will provide free training programs in the area and comes alongside National Career Development Month in November.

The local nonprofit was joined by the Pflugerville Community Development Corporation and Council Member Rudy Metayer at Rosendin’s 50,000 square-foot facility in Pflugerville.