Population vs. job growth and Houston vs. DFWA lot of stories recently about population and job growth nationwide. You may remember from a couple weeks ago that Houston was the #1 metro in the country for job growth in 2007. Now we have two new sets of Census numbers. One shows that Harris County was 3rd for population growth in 2006-07 behind Maricopa/Phoenix and Riverside, adding almost 60,000. Looking at 2000-07, we're 2nd:
Maricopa County, Ariz., had the largest numeric increase from 2000 to 2007, adding 808,000 residents. Harris, Texas (535,000); Riverside, Calif. (528,000); Clark, Nev. (461,000); and Los Angeles, Calif. (359,000) followed. Texas was the home to nine of the top 25 numeric gainers, and California to six.The other Census release focused on metros, where we had the 4th-largest gain last year behind DFW, Atlanta, and Phoenix. Texas had 4 in the top 10, including Austin and San Antonio. The AP article has some great excerpts:
Mike asks why those cities were able to draw more population than us even though we had more job growth. One factor may be calendar 2007 job growth vs. July-to-July census numbers. But yeah, I still find that confusing too. Usually the rule of thumb is 1 job for every 2 new people. Kids and retirees could be a big piece of it. Retirees especially: I think a lot are trying to sell their expensive east/west coast house at the peak and move somewhere cheaper, but stay within an easy/cheap flight of their old home for visits (esp. grandkids): Phoenix and Vegas for the west coast, Atlanta and Charlotte for the east. And a lot of people could move and then struggle to find a job - or they displace a native already holding that job.
Experts credit much of the growth in the South to relatively strong local economies and housing prices that are among the most affordable in the U.S.
"People are running away from unaffordable housing, from the economic slowdown," said Karl Eschbach, a state demographer in Texas. "I would expect Texas to stay at the top of a slowing game."
According to figures compiled by Eschbach, 16 percent of Americans who moved to other states between July 2006 and July 2007 came to Texas, which led the nation for the second straight year in that category.
Home prices continue to be a big factor. A report earlier this month by Global Insight found that housing prices in the Dallas area were undervalued by as much as 30 percent.
Ann Sekesan, a pharmacy technician, moved her family from Pennsylvania to suburban Fort Worth last June after seeing spacious homes in Texas for under $200,000 on a television show.
"After we saw that on TV, my husband and I looked at each other and said, 'Have you ever been to Texas?" Sekesan said. "It's amazing the size of a home you can get down here. It's just incredible."
I found a chart of Atlanta job and population growth over the last decade. They had several years in the last slowdown with very low and even negative job growth - even while still adding tens of thousands of new people each year. Their unemployment rate did move up, but not as much as you'd expect.
Focusing on DFW, I can think of three good reasons why their population growth stays higher than us:
1) DFW and Atlanta have larger "draw zones" than Houston for domestic migration trying to stay within a day's drive of home. Quoting a previous comment of mine:
"One growth factor people tend to overlook is simple geography. Young people tend to move from smaller towns and more rural areas to the nearest major city to make their life and career (trying to stay within a day's drive of their parents). DFW's "draw zone" is huge, stretching for hundreds of miles in all directions before running into potential major-metro competitors like Denver, Chicago, and Atlanta. Houston, because we're on the Gulf Coast, as well as having DFW to the north and Austin-SA to the west, has a more constrained "draw zone"."
2) There is a "sweet spot" city size in the 1 to 3 million range which has most big city advantages with fewer of the drawbacks, like traffic. Most of the fastest growing cities (on a % basis) are around that size, like Vegas, Austin, San Antonio, Charlotte, Raleigh-Durham etc. Ft. Worth offers that size town while still providing access to megapolitan amenities within a short drive, esp. DFW airport with its tremendous number of nonstop flights. In a lot of ways, it's a best of both worlds.
3) High humidity makes summer heat much more unpleasant. People want to cool off when they sweat, and then have that sweat evaporate. DFW, Atlanta, and Phoenix offer that dry heat alternative (not to mention Austin and San Antonio), while having just about as mild a winters as Houston.
In a lot of ways, it's amazing that we even keep up with cities like DFW, Atlanta, and Phoenix given the many "genetic"/geographic/climate disadvantages we start out with (i.e. nothing we can do about them). Energy and the Port certainly help make up a big part of the difference, but I think our aggressive infrastructure investments (esp. freeways) and our relatively unregulated dynamic/vibrant development environment are key success factors as well.