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Economy at a Glance - Mar 2021

This issue of Houston: The Economy at a Glance looks at recent revisions to pandemic employment data for Houston and provides fresh insights into to the strength of the ongoing recovery.
Published on 3/19/21

Houston: The Economy at a Glance is a free monthly publication, which offers the latest data along with expert commentary on the Houston region’s economy. Below is an excerpt from the report.

REVISING 2020

Job losses in the early stages of the pandemic were worse than first reported. The recovery has not progressed as far as once thought.

Job losses in the early stages of the pandemic were worse than first reported. The recovery has not progressed as far as once thought. For industries struggling prior to the shutdown, COVID-19 made things worse. And a full recovery is likely several years away.

Those are the conclusions from the Partnership’s analysis of the recent revisions to the employment data for ’19 and ’20. Earlier data came from employer surveys, and like all surveys, the results are subject to sampling, processing, and methodology errors. The revisions are based on administrative records, specifically data from the state’s unemployment insurance system, and thus reflect a more accurate picture of the pandemic’s impact.

Metro Houston lost 361,400 jobs in March and April, 11,200 more than first reported. That exceeds the combined job losses from the ’80s oil bust (226,100) and the Great Recession (120,500). 

The pandemic destroyed four years of growth, all the gains made since the end of the Fracking Bust. Total payroll employment stood at 2,947,800 in January of ’21, roughly the same level as January ’17.

TWC reports employment data for 70 sectors and sub-sectors in metro Houston. All but three reported losses in the early stages of the pandemic.  Hiring jumped at food and beverage stores as consumers stockpiled nonperishables. Hardware stores added to their staff as residents tackled long-delayed home improvement projects. Consumers found they could purchase sweatpants, bottled water, toilet paper and board games all in one store. General merchandise stores hired additional checkers and stockers to handle the surge in demand.

Four sectors accounted for over half the pandemic job losses: health care, other services, restaurants and bars, and retail. All suffered under government mandates that shut them down or restricted their operations early in the pandemic. Their losses totaled 207,400 jobs. All benefited from the lifting of government mandates. At present, this group has recouped two-thirds of its losses (137,900 jobs). These sectors aren’t holding back the recovery. 

Three subsectors have recouped all their losses: insurance, computer systems and design, and transportation and warehousing. The first two lost only a few jobs and recovered quickly. 

TWC doesn’t provide enough detail to determine where the gains in transportation and warehousing came from. The agency publishes nothing on waterborne and rail transportation. The available data on airlines, pipelines, and trucking show those sectors are struggling. The pandemic saw a surge in online shopping, which placed a greater demand on package delivery services. And the region grew as a distribution hub, absorbing more than 14 million square feet of warehouse space. Presumably, the job gains in transportation are in these areas.

Note: The geographic area referred to in this publication as “Houston,” "Houston Area” and “Metro Houston” is the nine-county Census designated metropolitan statistical area of Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX. The nine counties are: Austin, Brazoria, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris, Liberty, Montgomery and Waller.

To continue reading, please download the full report. 

Key March Takeaways

Here are the facts to know about the Houston region this month
1
March Takeaway #1
Metro Houston lost 361,400 jobs in March and April, 11,200 more than first reported. That exceeds the combined job losses from the ’80s oil bust (226,100) and the Great Recession (120,500).
2
March Takeaway #2
Through January, Houston sat 244,400 jobs below pre-pandemic levels. The region has recovered only 117,000 of the jobs, about one-third of those lost in the recession.
3
March Takeaway #3
Three subsectors have recouped all their losses: insurance, computer systems and design, and transportation and warehousing. The first two lost only a few jobs and recovered quickly.

Want to learn more? Contact our Research Team:

Patrick Jankowski, CERP
Senior Vice President, Research
713-844-3616
Elizabeth Balderrama
Manager, Research
713-844-3614

Previous Issues of Economy at a Glance

FEB
2021
REVISING 2020
Read Report
JAN
2021
Racial Demographics and Population Shifts
Read Report
NOV
2020
U.S. Recovery, 2021 Outlook
Read Report
OCT
2020
U.S. Recovery, Houston Update
Read Report
SEP
2020
COVID-19 Impact on Economy
Read Report
AUG
2020
Energy Change Over Time
Read Report
JUL
2020
COVID-19 Update, Houston Unemployment
Read Report
JUN
2020
COVID-19 Update, Affected Sectors, Energy
Read Report
MAY
2020
U.S. & Texas Outlook, GDP
Read Report
APR
2020
COVID-19 Update, PMI, Industry Outlook
Read Report
MAR
2020
Economic Impact, Global Outlook, Recession Probability
Read Report
FEB
2020
U.S.-China Trade Deal, USMCA
Read Report
JAN
2020
Houston GDP, Energy, Jobs
Read Report
DEC
2019
Sector by Sector Forecast for 2020
Read Report
NOV
2019
Houston Region Demographic Update 2
Read Report
OCT
2019
Houston Region Demographic Update 1
Read Report
SEP
2019
Houston's Growth Engines
Read Report
AUG
2019
PMI, Commercial Real Estate & Housing
Read Report

More Insight & Analysis

Monthly Update: Employment

Review the latest data on jobs in the Houston region. 

Monthly Update: Purchasing Managers Index

Review the latest data on this key economic indicator. 

Monthly Update: Building Permits

Review the latest data on this key economic indicator. 

Get more in-depth analysis from the Partnership team with a Membership.