THE ECONOMIST: Outlook for Texas metropolitan area economies

The economic upheaval of 2020 impacted all corners of Texas. As centers of employment, the largest metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) experienced the bulk of the heavy losses as the state responded to the COVID-19 crisis. About 79.3 percent of 1.4 million jobs lost between February and April 2020 were concentrated in the state’s six largest MSAs. However, recovery is ongoing, with the pace varying depending on industrial composition and other factors. Let’s briefly explore the current status of the state’s primary population centers and my latest economic projections.

The Austin-Round Rock-Georgetown MSA lost 137,000 jobs from February to April 2020; as of June, employment was only 5,400 jobs below the pre-pandemic peak. We expect almost 140,000 net new wage and salary jobs to be added over the next five years (2.47 percent per annum growth).

Dallas-Plano-Irving employment remains 21,700 below prior levels after a loss of about 299,200 jobs between February and April 2020. We forecast an addition of nearly 351,900 net new positions through 2025, a 2.49 percent yearly pace.

Fort Worth-Arlington-Grapevine conditions have improved substantially after February-April 2020 losses of 126,200, but employment remained 31,300 below the previous peak as of June. Employment in the area is likely to expand by more than 128,000 jobs, a 2.34 percent per annum gain.

El Paso employment is 11,200 below the February 2020 level, but has recovered many of the 36,800 jobs lost in the early months of the pandemic. We project close to 38,700 net new jobs by 2025, a 2.13 percent annual rise.

In the Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land MSA, which is heavily impacted by both energy and shipping, employment remained 147,900 below pre-pandemic totals in June, but had recovered significantly from the loss of 361,400 in the spring of 2020. Things should improve notably over the next five years, with wage and salary employment up nearly 399,800 jobs during the period (a 2.44 percent yearly pace).

McAllen-Edinburg-Mission is 7,500 below the pre-pandemic employment, but has regained a majority of the 28,100 jobs lost. Our latest forecast calls for employment to expand with a yearly growth rate of 2.40 percent for an increase of over 34,500 jobs by 2025.

For San Antonio-New Braunfels, the first few months of the pandemic led to losses of 131,000 jobs, and June employment remained 10,800 below February 2020. Close to 137,300 net new jobs are expected to be created through 2025 (a 2.39 percent annual rate).

Smaller MSAs have seen similar patterns, with a few even exceeding prior peaks. The pandemic hit hard, but the economy is on track to recoup aggregate losses by early next year, with notable momentum in all major markets. Assuming that the Delta variant does not bring additional disruptions, we expect these recovery patterns to persist. Stay safe!