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Bayou Business Download: The Houston Jobs Outlook for 2021

Published Dec 10, 2020 by A.J. Mistretta

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In this edition of Bayou Business Download we discuss the jobs picture for Houston in the year ahead. The region continues to do battle with COVID-19 while simultaneously working to regain lost jobs and business. We look at how the vaccines currently awaiting approval could change the dynamic in 2021 with Partnership Senior Vice President of Research Patrick Jankowski.

In this episode we discuss:

  • What factors will contribute to job growth and what needs to happen for that growth to materialize. 
  • How job growth in 2021 will differ from recent years. 
  • Which industries are likely to post the most job gains in 2021 and which ones are likely to see continued losses.
  • What will help Houston trend toward the higher end of job growth in the year ahead vs. the lower end. 
  • The most surprising parts of this year's analysis. 

Read the Partnership's complete 2021 Employment Forecast and get the latest monthly jobs figures for the region. 


Bayou Business Download is presented by: 


Related News


Houston Companies Planning Return to Offices, Plot Post-COVID Changes

Twenty-eight percent of Houston area companies say they have already fully reopened their offices and worksites as the region continues its recovery from COVID-19. Another 9% are planning to fully reopen in April or May and 21% believe they will reopen in June, July or August, according to a new survey by the Greater Houston Partnership of its member companies. September is the target date for 11% of companies while another 3% say it will be October or later. A substantial number (28%) say they haven’t yet determined a reopening date. The vast majority (83%) of respondents said the decision to reopen will be made at the local level and 69% said they will stagger employee return during their reopening instead of calling everyone back at the same time.  Roughly two-thirds (64%) of companies have made decisions on their in-person vs. remote work approach going forward.  Of those, 80% are going to expect employees to be in the office three or more days a week.  When it comes to vaccine protocols, 75% of companies say they will encourage but not require employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine before returning to work. Just 6% say they will require the vaccine before employees can return and the remaining 19% have not yet determined a formal plan. Many respondents said a key factor in deciding when to return to the office is that all staff have access to the vaccine.  As new COVID-19 cases in our region decline and more Houstonians get vaccinated, area businesses are beginning to contemplate what the “new normal” will look like post-pandemic and when to begin moving in that direction. “We deployed this survey to help guide companies on that next leg of the journey,” said Partnership President and CEO Bob Harvey. “These results tell us that companies are eagerly encouraging their employees to get vaccinated and preparing to bring employees back into the workplace in a carefully considered, safe manner.”  “I want to be clear, we are not out of danger yet; serious virus variants are present in Houston, and more residents need to be vaccinated in the coming weeks before we can definitively declare the worst over,” Harvey said. “Nevertheless, with all adult Texans now eligible for the vaccine and dose availability continuing to ramp up, companies need to prepare now for how they will effectively manage in a post-COVID environment.”  A total of 133 companies responded to the Partnership survey conducted March 22-25. Nearly half of respondents (46%) said they are comfortable attending in-person events today while another 25% said they won’t be ready for in-person events until the CDC declares the nation has reached herd immunity. The remaining respondents said they expect to be comfortable over the next few months.  How companies will assist their employees in the new hybrid environment was the focus of another survey question. Thirty-three percent said they have offered some form of payment/reimbursement to employees to outfit their home workspaces and another 10% say they are considering such a program. Click here for a PDF of the topline results of the survey. 
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Need for Hiring Houston Youth Critical in Wake of Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic drove unemployment to record highs across the greater Houston region and the country, disproportionately among Hispanic, Black, Asian, women and younger populations, and presented significant challenges for employers to offer traditional summer jobs and internships to young Houstonians. It was against this labor market backdrop and the knowledge that COVID vaccines were rolling out that City of Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced the kick-off of this year’s Hire Houston Youth initiative with an appeal for employers to register summer jobs and internships but also year-round opportunities for young Houstonians. Turner cited data from the Aspen Institute highlighting the disparate impact of the pandemic on unemployment among Hispanic individuals, Black Americans, Asian Americans, but also among white young adults.  “Our emphasis on our youth is even greater than before,” Turner said during the launch event, held at the Workforce Solutions – Northline career office.  The City plans to hire up to 500 youth this summer to work 32 hours a week for up to eight weeks, Turner said. It will pay its young workers $10 an hour, although other employers can offer different compensation. Successful City candidates will receive six hours of job-readiness training and receive guidance from career coaches. Summer opportunities offered through the Hire Houston Youth initiative should begin by June 14 and conclude by August 5 and can be virtual (remote) or in person. The job board for youth candidates opened March 15 and will remain open through April 16, but employers can still register opportunities at Mark Guthrie, chair of the Gulf Coast Region Workforce Board and executive committee member of the Partnership’s UpSkill Houston initiative, echoed Turner’s commitment to supporting employment opportunities for youth: The board recognizes that starting with young workers is valuable and yields a high return on investment, he said. “Summer jobs create the opportunity for young people to develop essential workplace skills they will carry throughout their careers,” Guthrie said, listing skills including showing up for work; communicating with customers, co-workers and supervisors; problem solving; and teamwork. Summer employment can also expose students to otherwise unknown occupations, he said.  Guthrie noted the that the COVID-19 pandemic drove the region’s unemployment rate up to 8 percent – compared with the pre-pandemic rate of 3.9 percent – with even higher unemployment rates for teens and young adults.  “Unfortunately, even in a good job market, teens and young adults have limited work opportunities,” Guthrie said. By enrolling in the program, employers can help ensure that young people don’t miss out on the all-important experience that comes with a summer job. The UpSkill Houston initiative recognizes the value of internships, pre-apprenticeship and other career-connected learning programs in helping students and young people connect with good careers. These programs help participants understand various, less visible, roles and occupations within an industry or organization; identify multiple pathways into industries, businesses, or specific occupations; and develop skills they can use to earn credentials or certification and build their careers. They can also provide a basis for young people to build meaningful relationships with mentors. Summer internships can be very real on-ramps to careers, as Darryl Samuels, of construction development company D. Samuels & Associates, LLC, said during the kick-off event. Samuels has hired four of five former interns who have graduated college. (Several more former interns are working their way through high school or college, he noted.) Samuels said the program helped him introduce students to careers and opportunities within the construction industry. Hire Houston Youth began in 2015, when the City offered 450 internships. By 2019, it had grown to include more than 10,000 opportunities, mostly within the private sector. The City adapted its program last year due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic but, by partnering with JPMorgan Chase, Workforce Solutions, University of Houston, Houston Community College and Lone Star College, was still able to provide almost 120 youth with 10 weeks of paid instruction and work to combat COVID in various communities, Turner said. Turner has not set a hiring goal for this year as he has in years past, but he hopes the program will regain momentum. “A lot of young people want to work, but they also need the opportunity to work,” he said. Learn more about how employers can get involved at, and can post opportunities here. 
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