* 1978年，达特茅斯学院毕业，获得应用数学学士学位，曾是该校Phi Delta Alpha兄弟联谊会主席。
2010: On the Road Back
For several years, three factors have worked to channel the growth of Houston’s economy: energy prices, the health of the national economy, and the value of the dollar. Those drivers remain opera-tive—but now there’s an added factor in play.
August ’07 brought the first blush of what became a crippling worldwide credit crunch. No industry or region has been immune to its effects. Houston, however, was sheltered for another year by high and rising energy prices that shielded it from the worst effects of sharply reduced credit.
As recession became entrenched in ’08, worldwide energy demand fell, and energy prices tumbled. In addition, real GDP growth posted the first of four consecutive quarters of contraction in Q3/08, and international trade shrank as credit and demand dried up. Without the shield of high commodity prices, job growth here slowed rapidly, turning negative early in ’09.
’09 has seen some easing in credit availability, but tight credit remains a constraint on much business activity—especially in commercial real estate, which faces massive refinancing demands in ’10.
Employment, of course, is a lagging economic in-dicator. When economic conditions start to im-prove and demand for goods and services begins to revive, employers first increase hours worked. The next step is to add temporary workers. Only when demand is seen as stable, and downside risks as limited, are employers likely to make new hires.
In Houston, a return to sustained job growth de-pends heavily not only on renewed demand for energy and for chemicals and plastics products, but also on revived international trade. This means that economic recovery elsewhere is a prerequisite for substantial job growth in Houston.
Late ’09 saw scattered positive economic signs for the national economy, leading to the widespread expectation that the U.S. will see growth in payroll employment in either Q1 or Q2. Houston, the Part-nership believes, is likely to follow suit in Q3.
What happened in Houston in ’09 is largely con-tained in three stories—upstream energy, construc-tion, and international trade.
Upstream energy: The supersector name is “min-ing and logging,” but nearly all of it in Houston is oil and gas. It’s of particular importance to the re-gion’s economy because average annual pay is well above $100,000, so its employment level has a large impact on industries that depend heavily on discretionary spending.
Data are available in Houston for two components of this supersector. Oil and gas extraction, which includes many of the major firms engaged in multi-year programs abroad, has continued to add jobs, and should end ’09 with an over-the-year gain of 2,100 or so. (The latest data at this writing are for October.) Support activities for mining, more sus-ceptible to short-term shifts in demand, probably has shed 5,100 jobs this year.
We expect construction to have lost 23,300 jobs—one in nine—this year, accounting for a quarter of the region’s net job loss. Steep cuts in construction activity have affected other industries, and are al-most certainly involved in the loss of some 6,400 jobs in fabricated metal products manufacturing and 6,600 in architectural and engineering services.
International trade: Houston has long occupied a prominent position in international business. It’s ironic that international trade appears to have made Houston more vulnerable than the other large Texas metros to the steep worldwide drop in trade induced by limited credit availability. From De-cember ’08 to December ’09, wholesale trade em-ployment in Houston fell about 11.7 percent, cost-ing 16,400 jobs. The related category of transporta-tion that includes warehousing, water transport and rail transport is likely to have shed another 10,000 jobs, down 17.9 percent.
Those three stories involve industries that represent more than two-thirds of Houston’s net job loss this year. What happens to them will dominate Hous-ton’s employment picture in ’10.
On balance, it looks as if the Houston metro area should eke out a small net gain—1,900—next year. That’s end product of gains and losses for individual industries that respond in different ways to eco-nomic developments. As we turn to a detailed look at next year, we emphasize that the numbers in a forecast aren’t as important as the reasons underly-ing the forecast. Being aware of what drives a fore-cast allows one to adjust expectations when unan-ticipated changes occur.
Upstream energy: The U.S. Energy Information Administration expects the price of West Texas Intermediate crude to be little changed in ’10, aver-aging about $79 and edging above $81 in Q4. On the other hand, EIA sees total domestic natural gas consumption declining 0.4 percent. In EIA’s fore-cast, natural gas prices are pushed higher by declin-
Construction: Aside from potential federal stimu-lus spending and tax incentives, there’s little to spark construction in Houston next year. Except in special cases, strict lending standards pose a daunt-ing challenge to financing most projects.
· Single-family residential construction—perhaps buoyed by federal tax credits, but still constrained by strict lending standards—is unlikely next year to see much more than a repetition of this year’s 15,000 or so starts.
While ’09 probably saw the brunt of the hits to construction employment in the Houston region, a further modest decline in ’10 seems unavoidable. The Partnership expects this loss to run to 5,500 jobs, or 3.1 percent.
International trade: Unfortunately, industry defini-tions used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics data don’t permit us to isolate international trade. We gain some insight by looking at wholesale trade and the category in transportation and warehousing that has warehousing, waterborne transportation, and rail transportation as primary components.
As developed economies worldwide fell into reces-sion, international trade shipments declined pre-cipitously. Excluding mineral fuels, the 12-month total volume of Port of Houston imports and ex-ports peaked in August ’08 and then fell 19.0 per-cent over the next 12 months.
With economic growth now accelerating in some Asian economies and returning in some developed economies, trade volumes should improve—and Houston certainly hasn’t lost its capacity to handle international trade. Q3/09 brought solid gains in imports and exports at the national level, brighten-ing the prospects for further growth in ’10. These prospects underpin the Partnership’s expectation that wholesale trade in Houston next year will re-gain 5,200 of the 16,400 jobs it lost this year, and that the transportation component that includes warehousing, waterborne transportation, and rail transportation will add back 2,900 of the 10,000 jobs it lost this year.
Manufacturing declines for a second consecutive year in this forecast—but by only 2.1 percent, ver-sus 7.5 percent in ’09. Three-fourths of the 4,800 manufacturing jobs expected to be lost in ’10 are in fabricated metal products, which is adversely af-fected by dwindling construction activity.
Retail trade, which will have lost a bit more than 10,000 jobs this year, sheds just 400 jobs in ’10. This forecast anticipates rising consumer confi-dence as job losses abate in the first half of ’10 and gains appear in the second half. An expanding con-sumer market adds support for retail trade em-ployment: population growth in this decade has consistently exceeded 100,000 persons per year in the 10-county metropolitan area.
Professional, scientific and technical services sees little net change in ’10. This sector is buoyed by a second year of 4.0 percent growth in computer systems design and a 2.1 percent gain in legal ser-vices. Architectural and engineering services, how-ever, are expected to decline 1.9 percent after a 9.8 percent drop this year, hurt by both the continued decline in construction activity and the less-than-robust outlook for upstream energy.
Administrative and support services is expected to reverse this year’s loss of 5,200 jobs with a net gain of 5,400. A solid advance in employment ser-vices—a harbinger of growth in permanent jobs—more than offsets mild declines in other fields.
Health care and social assistance isn’t immune to recessionary pressures, but its dominant health care component also is driven by the growth and aging of the population it serves. This forecast sees job growth slowing from 2.0 percent this year to 1.6 percent next year.
Accommodation and food services ekes out a net gain of 0.5 percent in ’10. The year is a difficult one for the lodging industry, but an improving re-gional economy moving toward ’11 should bolster restaurants and other food services.
Government should add 4,100 jobs, as 4,800 jobs added in public education more than offset a mod-est decline in other governmental functions. The gains in public education are predicated not only on population growth, but also on the rise in de-mand for additional education and/or vocational training that typically occurs in a recession. The forecast for government also recognizes that many political jurisdictions are seeing shrinking revenues from property and sales taxes.
One of many uncertainties is the extent of addi-tional federal actions to blunt the inroads made by this recession. The anticipated expansion in public education assumes that funding will be available—something that may depend on federal assistance. Elsewhere, however, we do not assume any addi-tional federal intervention.
The outlook for ’10 isn’t nearly so dire as was the forecast for ’09. We see job losses here continuing well into ’10, but at moderating rates. By the time we reach the final quarter of next year, employ-ment—a lagging indicator—should be on the upswing. Houston’s economy is fundamentally sound, and it’s well-positioned to return to vigor-ous growth as recession turns to growth across the globe.
Greater Houston Partnership
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