Thursday, April 16, 2009

Best cities for jobs: Texas runs the table

The annual best cities for jobs ranking was released this week at Forbes, and Texas ran the table with the top 5 slots on the large city list: Austin, Houston, San Antonio, Ft. Worth, and Dallas. That's pretty impressive when you think about it. Still, everybody is hurting now, we're just hurting less than elsewhere. Excerpts:

The top of the complete ranking--which, for ease, we have broken down into the two smaller lists, of the best big and small cities for jobs--is dominated by one state: Texas. The Lone Star State may have lost a powerful advocate in Washington, but it's home to a remarkable eight of the top 20 cities on our list--including No. 1-ranked Odessa, a small city in the state's northwestern region. Further, the top five large metropolitan areas for job growth--Austin, Houston, San Antonio, Ft. Worth and Dallas--are all in Texas' "urban triangle."

The reasons for the state's relative success are varied. A healthy energy industry is certainly one cause. Many Texas high-fliers, including Odessa, Longview, Dallas and Houston, are home to energy companies that employ hordes of people--and usually at fairly high salaries for both blue- and white-collar workers. In some places, these spurts represent a huge reversal from the late 1990s. Take Odessa's remarkable 5.5% job growth in 2008, which followed a period of growth well under 1% from 1998 to 2002.


Looking at the energy sector's hotbeds, however, doesn't tell the whole story. Another major factor behind a city's job offerings is how severely it experienced the housing crisis. There's a "zone of sanity" across the middle of the country, including Kansas City, Mo., that largely avoided the real estate bubble and the subsequent foreclosure crisis.

Still other factors correlating with job growth--as evidenced by Shires' and my current and past studies--are lower costs and taxes. ... Compared with high-tech centers in California and the Northeast, such as San José and Boston, places like Austin offer both tax and housing-cost bargains, as do Fargo, N.D. and Durham-Chapel Hill, N.C.


Specifically, the college town winners include not only well-known places like Austin and Chapel Hill, but also less-hyped places like Athens, Ga., home of the University of Georgia; College Station, Texas, where 48,000-student Texas A&M University is located; Morgantown, W.Va., site of the University of West Virginia; and Fargo, the hub of North Dakota State University.

On a related note, a somewhat expanded and refined version of my recent post on Texas and America's four great growth waves has been published on the New Geography site here: America's four great growth waves and the world cities they produced.

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At 7:25 AM, April 17, 2009, Blogger Brian Shelley said...

Everyone should take note of Oklahoma. On the big city list, OKC is #9, ahead of "booming" DC. On the full list Tulsa is right behind Houston. No one is talking about them, but their proximity to the ever northward bound DFW area is a plus. OU is a good school, about as good as Baylor (academically). The population growth rate for the state has been picking up in recent years as well. Cost of living is even cheaper than Texas.

They still have some problems, but they seem to be doing some things right by keeping taxes low.

At 10:50 AM, April 17, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hold your horses there cowboy. These rankings, although they claim to be forward looking, are based largely on last year’s results. And of course, as everyone knows, about a year ago we were seeing +$100 per barrel for oil. It was a boom time. Jobs in places like Odessa were growing like crazy. They couldn’t hire enough people. Oil services jobs in places like Tulsa, OK City, San Antonio, Dallas/Ft. Worth and Houston also surged. At the same time, in many other places that were previously boom markets (like California, Arizona, Florida), they were shedding jobs because of the tanking real estate market. The Midwest Rustbelt….well they have been screwed for years.

Then the financial crisis hit in the fall of 2008. This first hit the financial industry directly so places like New York, Boston, San Francisco, Chicago and Charlotte felt it initially. Eventually, by the end of the year, it started to hit places like Houston, Dallas and San Antonio. Without credit, many of the deals went dry. Compounding the problem we had the falling price of oil.

2009 is going to be a REALLY tough year for Texas and other places that, although more diversified than 20 years ago, still depend on the oil industry. Bankruptcy filings in Texas are way up, both for individuals and for companies. Layoffs are going to continue as long as the price of oil stays around $50. A good friend of mine was fired from a job in the energy industry in Tulsa recently after being hired just about a year ago.

Last year was the boom, this year we are looking at the bust. It is a lag effect. While the rest of the country was hurting last year, places like Texas were riding high. As the rest of the country starts the upswing, we will likely lag behind.

At 4:55 PM, April 17, 2009, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

While I agree this is based on last year's data, and that we're looking at a tough year (all acknowledged in the article), all evidence is that we will stay ahead of the nation as a whole, with fewer job losses (proportionally) and lower unemployment, and we should also get back in positive territory before the country as a whole does. Yes, energy is dialing back a bit, but we haven't had the massive wealth destruction felt in housing on the coasts.

At 9:46 PM, April 17, 2009, Blogger Brian Shelley said...

On the Texas economy: You might be surprised how soon the recession will be over for Texas. If you look at the last two months of non-seasonally adjusted employment numbers, employment in Texas and Houston has been climbing.

Oil is trending up. The dollar has downward pressure, which means higher oil prices, and better for a heavy manufacturing state like Texas.

At 11:46 PM, April 17, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I currently live in a state where the car registration fee is based on the value of your car. I know that the roads must be maintained and that we need highway patrol officers but after having lived in texas all my life I was shocked to recieve such an unreasonable car fee. We need to maintain a flat car fee in texas.

At 11:45 AM, April 18, 2009, Blogger Michael said...

>>If you look at the last two months of non-seasonally adjusted employment numbers, employment in Texas and Houston has been climbing.

Does that reconcile with this data,which estimates total job losses in the Houston area at slightly less than 100k by the time the recession is over (32k existing losses plus approx 60k more)?

>>Oil is trending up.

A friend I know in the oil business says $50 oil is not helping much. They are continuing to lay off people in his Fortune 500 company at a rapid pace.

At 6:21 AM, April 21, 2009, Anonymous David Winans said...


Congrats on the mention of your "Four Great Growth Waves" in the Dallas Morning News editorial section this morning written by William McKenzie. Very encouraging piece about Texas.

At 8:09 AM, April 21, 2009, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

Very cool! Thanks for the heads up.

It's here:

At 10:59 PM, May 20, 2009, Blogger Unknown said...

Great story in the WSJ this week, Soak the Rich, Lose the Rich. Mentions Texas all through the article. Another reason to see explosive growth in the Texaplex. David Winans


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