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Talking Points

A snapshot of Houston's demographic and economic growth for a quick reference guide of the regional economy | Q1/21
Published on 7/19/21
Talking Points Q1 '21


  • 7.2 million people live in the nine-county Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land MSA.
  • The Houston metro is the nation's fifth most populous metro area.
  • Metro Houston and has more residents than Tennessee, Massachusetts and 33 other states.
  • The City of Houston has 2.3 million residents, fourth most in the U.S.
  • Nearly 1 in 4 Houstonians are foreign born.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2019 American Community Survey


  • Fifteen foreign governments maintain trade and commercial offices in Houston, and the region has 41 active foreign chambers of commerce.
  • 17.3% of the region's economy is tied to exports, and exports support 330,000 jobs
  • Houston’s two international airports service 174 nonstop destinations, including 123 domestic and 51 international.
  • The Houston-Galveston Customs District handled $194.3 billion in trade in '20, $67.4 billion in imports and $127.0 billion in exports.
  • Houston traded with 212 countries in ’20. Of those, trade with 32 countries exceeded $1 billion.
  • Houston has the largest export market in the U.S.
  • Port Houston is the largest container port on the Gulf Coast.
  • Over 5,000 Houston companies are doing business abroad.
  • More than 1,700 Houston companies report foreign ownership.
  • Seventy-eight nations have consular representation in Houston, the third largest representation in the U.S.
  • Sixteen foreign banks from 9 nations are located in Houston.


  • The Houston MSA’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was $512.2 billion in ’19.  
    If Houston were an independent nation, the region would have the 27th largest economy in the world, behind Belgium and ahead of Nigeria.
  • Since 2001, real GDP in the Houston region has grown at a compound annual growth rate of 2.6 percent.

  • Houston is the seventh largest metro economy in the U.S.
  • Twenty-four Fortune 500 companies call Houston home, the third most among U.S. Metros.


  • There are 3.0 million jobs in the Houston MSA.
  • The Health, Education, and Business & Professional Services industries account for nearly 1 out of 3 jobs in the region.
  • The goods-producing sector accounts for more than 1 in 6 jobs.


  • The Texas Medical Center is the world's largest medical complex

TMC Graphic

  • Houston medical institutions received $834 million in NIH grants in ’20.
  • 1 in 5 clinical trials in the U.S. are conducted in Houston. 
  • Houston’s health care industry employs 158,690 workers, including 12,190 doctors and 61,100 nurses.
  • The Houston region is home to more than 18,960 life science and biotech researchers.

Digital Technology & Innovation

  • Houston has the 11th largest tech workforce in the U.S., more workers than Austin or Denver.
  • Local tech startups raised over $820 million in Venture Capital in '20.
  • Houston has 243,900 tech workers, including 152,000 computer, math, and engineering occupations.  
  • Houston has 9,290 tech-related firms, including more than 700 venture-backed startups.
  • Houston’s tech industry contributed $29.2 billion to the region’s GDP in ’19.
  • There are over 60 organizations supporting tech startups in Houston, including co-working spaces, incubators and accelerators, and non-profit tech hubs.


  • Houston’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) has served as mission control for U.S. space exploration and astronaut training since 1961.
  • JSC managed a budget of $5.6 billion in ’20 and generated more than $8.7 billion in economic output.
  • More than 350 aviation and aerospace-related companies operate in Houston, including Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman.
  • NASA employed 2,950 civil workers, including 110 astronauts, and 8,942 contractors at JSC in ’20.
Demography Economy
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