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June/July 2009

Houston Economy Shining Bright Despite Recession

Houston Economy Shining Bright Despite Recession

by Toree Roy

Houston on fast-track to becoming engine of state’s economy

After living in Austin for five years, Giselle Greenwood made the move to Houston with a nine-month-old and husband in tow.

“I looked at how big the job market was, and Houston seemed to have a broader scope of industries available and job opportunities,” Greenwood says.

The Houston area is proving to be a shining beacon of economic success.

Population Trends

In recent months, the city’s population has grown as more people strive to reap the benefits that Houston has to offer.

The 10-county Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown Metropolitan Statistical Area (Houston MSA), the nation’s sixth most populous MSA, ranked second among the nation’s metropolitan areas in population growth from July 2007 to July, 2008.

During the past year, Houston has welcomed 130,185 new residents or one person every four minutes, according to the Greater Houston Partnership.

The Houston area’s current population is estimated at more than 5 million people. More than 66,000 residents migrated to Houston from another location.

Popular Industries

Houston’s population may have increased, but in recent months some industries in the city have experienced marginal job losses.

“In a credit crunch that’s adversely affecting nearly all industries, widespread losses are to be expected,” says Skip Kasdorf, manager of research for the Greater Houston Partnership.

In the past 12 months, Houston has seen considerable job loss in several industries, including construction, which lost 4,100 jobs; trade, transportation and utilities, which lost 7,200 jobs; and professional and business services, which lost 11,900 jobs.

But Houston continues to show surprising strength in some key industries.

In the 12 months ending in February 2009, the mining and logging industry in Houston gained 6,000 jobs or 6.9 percent, according to the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC).

Other industries in Houston that experienced job increases from February 2008 to February 2009 were manufacturing, which gained 2,600 jobs, and health care and social assistance, which gained 9,000 jobs.

The Greater Houston Partnership has a 10-year strategic plan called Opportunity Houston that will help create 600,000 regional jobs, attract $60 billion in capital investment and expand the area’s foreign trade by $120 billion by the end of 2015, says Kimberley Baker, the partnership’s marketing and media relations director.

The plan targets five major economic sectors considered critical to Houston’s future prosperity: aviation and aerospace, energy and petrochemical, medical and biotechnology, information technology and nanotechnology.

Employment Trends

In a year spanning from February 2008 to February 2009, the Houston area experienced a job loss of about 0.2 percent, or 6,300 jobs, according to TWC.

The state as a whole saw payroll employment shrink by 0.7 percent, losing 73,000 jobs, Kasdorf says.

Houston’s February unemployment rate was 6.4 percent, a significant increase from 4.3 percent in February 2008. Unemployment statewide was 6.6 percent in February, far below the national rate of 8.9 percent.

Giselle Greenwood says she never considered living in Houston, but the city seemed to be faring better than others.

“I think the Houston [economic] climate is pretty good,” she says. “I mean we’ve felt the heat, but not as bad as the rest of the nation.”

For more information on Houston’s bustling economy, visit the Greater Houston Partnership.

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