Thursday, March 13, 2008

Houston #1 metro for 2007 job growth?

In case you missed it, the Rockets aren't the only thing in Texas on a tear. Houston and Texas are anchoring the majority of the job growth in the country too, all through the national slowdown of 2007 and now into the almost certain recession of 2008. This is from Skip's Greater Houston Partnership email newsletter:
It's likely that, when the revised December '06 estimate is released, 12-month job growth for December '07 will exceed 100,000, running about 4.0 percent. The key message from today's TWC estimates: Instead of slowing over the course of '07, job growth in Houston last year appears to have continued unabated, essentially matching the torrid '06 performance.

How does Houston's 3.9 percent job growth for the 12 months ending this January stack up? As usual, Austin-Round Rock leads among the state's major metropolitan areas, up 4.2 percent with a gain of 30,500. Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington grew 2.9 percent, adding 83,500 jobs, and San Antonio was up 3.0 percent with a gain of 24,200 jobs. Each of the four majors outperformed the state as a whole, which posted 2.8 percent job growth.

What's been going on in Houston and in Texas contrasts vividly with the experience of most other parts of the country. From January '07 to January '08, the nation as a whole managed a net gain of 977,000 jobs--a meager 0.7 percent increase. Houston alone accounted for 9.8 percent of the nation's net growth, the four large Texas metros together accounted for nearly a quarter of it (23.9 percent), and the entire state of Texas contributed 29.1 percent. Without Texas, nationwide job growth would barely have exceeded 0.5 percent.

Wow. Almost a third of the nation's job growth is happening in Texas.

And the revised estimates a few days later:
Today, the Texas Workforce Commission released revised monthly estimates of nonfarm payroll employment for April-December 2006 and February-November 2007. They show that job growth in the Houston metropolitan area peaked last June with a 12-month net gain of more than 117,000 jobs, or 4.8 percent, and then slowed to a bit more than 90,000 jobs, or 3.6 percent, by the end of the year.
"Slowed" is relative. That is still some crazy-strong job growth. I think that makes us the #1 metro in the country for absolute job growth in 2007, but I haven't seen an official list. The usual competitors are DFW, Atlanta, and Phoenix, but I don't think any of them had as good a year as us.

Most of our long-term forecast models assume about 100K/year population growth, and about half that in job growth - so we're running almost twice as fast as that, which implies we may be adding population of around 200K/year. Hard to say how sustainable it is, but there doesn't seem to be any kind of slowdown on the horizon for energy, the Port, or medical. It may be time to accelerate a lot of those long-term infrastructure plans...

Update: Skip at GHP confirms:
Between January '07 and January '08, the Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown Metropolitan Statistical Area gained more jobs than any other U.S. metropolitan area and added jobs at a faster rate than any other major metropolitan area, according to estimates published today by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Houston accounted for more than 10 percent of the nation's net job growth over that period. Texas' four major metropolitan areas--Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, San Antonio and Austin--together accounted for nearly 25 percent of the nation's job growth.

For more, click For the complete BLS report, with data on all metropolitan areas, click

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At 7:58 AM, March 14, 2008, Blogger Brian Shelley said...

Just a wee bit of anal retentiveness. The actual TWC estimates that have on their website right now show Jan to Jan growth rate of 95,300 for Houston. I assume they pulled their 100K figure from a premature article put out by Lynn Sixel in the Chronicle.

Is Houston #1?

Adding data from the Bureau of Labor statistics we may be. They have Dec to Dec growth @ 59.8K which is the exact number that TWC had before their updates so I assume they are the same source. Before any updates, these are the top 10 for Dec to Dec employment growth.

Dallas/FW 65.8
Houston 59.8
Atlanta 52.6
Seattle 46.7
Washington DC 40.9
Chicago 36.8
Riverside 32.4
Salt Lake City 27.2
Philadelphia 25.8
Phoenix-Mesa-Sc 25.4

At 8:08 AM, March 14, 2008, Blogger Brian Shelley said...

Looking at Georgia's Department of Labor most recent number for Jan to Jan employment growth for Atlanta MSA, their numbers fell significantly to 35.6K.

So unless one of the lower cities had an even more colossal correction than TWC had for Houston, then I would safely say that Houston is #1 for job growth based on the most recent data.

At 8:41 AM, March 14, 2008, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

Cool. Thanks for digging up those numbers, Brian.

At 12:45 PM, March 14, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Most of our long-term forecast models assume about 100K/year population growth, and about half that in job growth - so we're running almost twice as fast as that, which implies we may be adding population of around 200K/year. Hard to say how sustainable it is, but there doesn't seem to be any kind of slowdown on the horizon for energy, the Port, or medical. It may be time to accelerate a lot of those long-term infrastructure plans..."


Are you implying that the planners were wrong yet again?

I replied to the H-GAC 2035 plan public comments. One of my first observations in my reply was that it was ridiculous to plan for what the world was going to be like in 30 years, but I did let H-GAC off gently noting that the feds make them do it.

This may, as you imply, be a short run blip off of the long run mean. But heaven forbid we wind up with 5-6 million more people in 30 years, rather than be stuck with a 30 year plan that supposedly accomodates the oft proclaimed 3,538,000 newcomers.

At 9:36 AM, March 27, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't understand something... If we were number one in job growth last year, how come DFW, Phoenix, and Atlanta all beat us in population growth?

At 11:19 AM, March 27, 2008, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

Yeah, I 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.

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.

At 3:33 PM, March 27, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I suspect that the different entities are just using different methods of counting, and we won't know the truth until the 2010 census. It is somewhat annoying that no matter what, DFW seems to have more growth. I think Houston is far more interesting geographically and a better place to live, although Dallas seems a lot cleaner and tidier.

I think part of why Dallas draws more is that they are more centrally positioned in the country, so it doesn't seem like such an extreme move to people from the north or west. That and the fact that their image mafia has consistently clobbered us when it comes to how they are presented in brochures and tour books; they are THE metropolis of Texas, we are just a large city on the gulf.

At 4:08 PM, March 27, 2008, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

I think the counting uses the same Census methodology in each city.

I can think of 3 good reasons:

1) DFW and Atlanta have larger "draw zones" than Houston for domestic migration trying to stay within a day's drive of home. See this comment for details:
"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, 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, while having just about as mild a winters as Houston.

At 4:20 PM, March 27, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think those have some merit, but I wouldn't give too much weight to any of them. Atlanta is essentially the eastern boundary of Houston's draw zone, and there's no reason why having San Antonio and Austin to our west shouldn't be an advantage in terms of synergy. I could give some credit to the "sweet spot" theory, but at this point, DFW is just one seamless suburban megalopolis, so it's not like Fort Worth is really a distinct place anymore.

As for the humidity thing, I don't think the average person who hasn't been to Texas really distinguishes between Dallas's and Houston's weather. Most people have a vague idea that both are hot places, and that's that. The advantages of having an ocean and some forest in our area should make up for a marginal difference in humidity.

I think a major difference is the sense of cleanliness one gets driving around Dallas vs. the junky and tawdry feeling one gets driving around Houston. But you don't want to admit that, because it would mean that we should have more regulations.

At 2:36 AM, March 28, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can we get any traction from someone in the city who advocates replacing the ugly chain link fence that runs along Allen Pkwy westward from downtown??


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