Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Houston tops growth, Energy Capital, bike lanes, and more

Got to clear out a stack of smaller misc items this week:
  • Houston #1 for population added and #2 for jobs added in the last decade, just behind, you guessed it, Washington DC and our insatiable, ever-expanding federal government.  What I can't understand from the table is how all of these metros like DFW (+12 people for every job added) and especially Atlanta (a million people added but negative 30k jobs) add so many people without proportional employment increases.  Very confusing.  What are all these new people doing?  Hypotheses behind this dynamic welcome in the comments.
  • Friday I attended the Center for Houston's Future panel on keeping Houston the Energy Capital of the World.  Interesting stuff, and the Chronicle has a good write-up here.  My suggestions were increasing local venture capital with a 401k option for local employees and an Energy SXSW mega-conference (and update) - both of which were well received.
  • Friday I also attended the Mayor's State of the City address, which went well.  Nothing too new that we weren't already aware of, but it was nice to hear a complete summary of all of the past and upcoming initiatives.  Mayor Parker had a great zinger line that got a laugh from the audience: "A tight budget is like a corset - it holds some things in and emphasizes others!"  Coverage: full text, Chronicle, Kuff.
  • P.J. O'Rourke amusingly goes after urban cyclists and their dedicated lanes in a Wall Street Journal essay.  I generally support bike lanes as long as they don't remove traffic lanes (narrowing is usually ok, but dropping Westpark from 4 lanes to 3 is not - esp. when it would have been trivially easy to put an bike lane on the adjacent power line right-of-way), but this is funny enough I can't help but pass it along: Dear Urban Cyclists: Go Play in Traffic
  • A pass-along that I thought might be of interest to my readers: a new iPhone app called PIM lets you find, reserve, and pay for your parking spots across the US, Canada and Europe, and also gives the driver occupancy information in certain locations in real time. It contains more than 250 locations in Houston alone, complete with rates, hours of operation, and other useful info.
  • New Geography has an interesting essay, "The Evolving Urban Form: Dallas-Fort Worth", much of which could also be applied to Houston (although we have a healthier core city than Dallas).  Here's one Houston-related stat indicated how strongly we're growing vs. other large cities not just in the U.S., but around the globe:
"On an international scale, the United Nations estimates indicate that only Singapore, Houston and Atlanta had greater percentage growth between 2000 and 2010 among high-income world urban areas that exceed 4,000,000 in population."
That's enough for this week.  Have a great Easter weekend.

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At 7:22 PM, April 19, 2011, Blogger Leith van Onselen said...

Hi. Houston, Atlanta and DFW likely attract lots of young large families because of their low cost of living and the ability to purchase a good sized home with a back yard at reasonable prices. As most people in a large young families don't work, you therefore get a proportionately large rise in the population without a corresponding rise in jobs.

At 8:55 PM, April 19, 2011, Anonymous awp said...

Might also be explained by the economic cycle. Near the peak of the longest running expansion ever 2000 near the deepest trough since the Depression 2010.

I would believe that the most dynamic and fastest growing cities are going to have the least stable employment market.

Even if construction wasn't over-represented and the growth is sustainable in the long run.

At 5:56 AM, April 20, 2011, Blogger Peter Wang said...

Bike lanes vs. other ways to accommodate bikes are a valid topic for debate, but that snarky WSJ article was a complete waste of space, and not worthy of the Journal's editorial standards.

At 9:43 PM, April 20, 2011, Blogger wtfree3 said...

I feel pretty confident in this hypothesis on why DC had such large growth (though keep in mind, its metro area is huge) and why DFW and Atlanta suffer. Part of it is just the years you're choosing to use for comparison (like awp said). If you're talking 2000 to 2010, remember that DFW and Atlanta were two rather important hubs for the thriving technology boom of that late 90s era. Unemployment was extremely low in those locations, so going from extremely low unemployment to the current era levels (where 9% is the norm) can swallow up any small scale employment growth (or even loss).

As for DC, remember that the late 90s was an era of belt tightening in the federal government, where Congressional-rules-based accounting indicated a surplus by 2000. So, job levels were suppressed a bit, and the technology boom that also grew up in the late 90s was suppressed a bit by the government right-sizing. Change to the current era, where the federal government (both through actual employees and even more the contracting staff that support them) has ballooned massively, and you have a huge 10-year change.

Just remember what years you're using for comparison and what was going on in those eras. (BTW, both DC and Houston, I believe, have relatively low current unemployment levels, for a variety of reasons I don't claim to fully understand, but which are driven in part by such employment growth that hasn't been driven under as much by the recent recession and corporate belt-tightening).

At 1:52 AM, April 24, 2011, Blogger Alon Levy said...

It's not just that 2010 was a bad year in the cycle. Atlanta had very low job growth peak-to-peak, and negative real per capita income growth rate. Dallas was marginally better.

At 7:51 AM, April 24, 2011, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

So what I draw out of all this is that DFW and Atlanta might be the type of cities that draw people who don't know what they're going to do work-wise - they just want to move to a big city (probably within a day's drive of their hometown) and then figure it out.

I think Houston has some of that too, but since our climate is a bit more hostile, we may bias more heavily towards people being drawn here by a specific job offer (or a family or friend connection to a job opportunity) - and of course that's been helpfully driven by high oil prices.

At 3:17 AM, April 27, 2011, Blogger Michael said...

It's hard to believe that the Houston area created almost three times as many jobs as DFW. I'd be happy to believe it, but it doesn't gel with other statistics I've seen in the past.

I wonder... if we have four of the nation's fastest growing cities, how much have the employment rolls of public schools or the acreage and facilities of state parks grown to accommodate all those new people?

At 9:36 AM, April 27, 2011, Anonymous kjb434 said...

"As for DC, remember that the late 90s was an era of belt tightening in the federal government"

This is the funniest statement I think that was ever posted in these comments since this blog started.

The federal government did absolutely NO belt tightening in the 90s. The "projected" surplus was do to the roaring tech bubble which meant money was flying everywhere and the federal revenues were going up over all the new wealth created over pretty much nothing. The "projected" surplus collapsed initially with the dot.com bust and was obliterated after 9/11.

The closest belt tightening was a reduction in the rate of federal spending growth, but no spending cut occurred.

At 7:45 PM, April 27, 2011, Blogger wtfree3 said...

DC did tighten its belt, if you actually look at the expenditure numbers. In no year-over-year comparisons did spending go down (source: http://www.usgovernmentspending.com/year1990_0.html#usgs302), but between 1992 and 2000, the percentage of GDP spent on federal government went from 22.1% to 18.4%. (source: http://www.csmonitor.com/Business/Stefan-Karlsson-s-Blog/2010/1202/Government-spending-and-the-1990s) Even if you strip out military costs and interest payments (two areas that significantly impacted reduced spending), you still saw remaining federal expenses go from 14.1% to 13.1% of GDP.

It wasn't just a stock market bubble hiking taxes (though it certainly didn't hurt) that helped close that surplus gap. Keeping the government budget from growing as fast as GDP also helped tremendously. You are right in that it was the extra tax revenue that caused the surplus (all reliable estimates in the mid-90s never expected surpluses so quickly), but focusing on that that undersells the fact that the politicians got spending back under control, too. A lesson the current generation of leaders on both sides of the aisles have willfully ignored.


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