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Economic Update: The Keys to Recovery

Published Oct 27, 2020 by A.J. Mistretta

Texas Medical Center in Houston

A new surge of COVID-19 cases threatens to slow the economic recovery nationwide and here in Houston. But recent indicators show increased consumer and business confidence nearly eight months into the pandemic. 

Partnership Senior Vice President of Research Patrick Jankowski provided insight into areas such as jobs, consumer sentiment and GDP in this latest economic update on October 25.

Here are a few takeaways:

  • Worldwide, countries have reported nearly 43 million cases of COVID-19 and approximately 1.1 million deaths. Here in the U.S., approximately 8.7 million cases have been reported with 225,000 deaths. Cases globally and here in the U.S. are once again trending upward. 
  • Jankowski said despite the new surge in cases, we’re unlikely to see a fresh round of restrictive lockdowns. The political will simply isn’t there right now to take steps that would further damage state and local economies, he said, adding that individuals and businesses are more willing to take corrective action to stave off lockdowns than they were six months ago. 
  • New anecdotal data from a workplace access and security company suggests that, nationwide, only about 30% of employees have returned full-time to office settings. 
  • Jankowski said business confidence is picking back up. Data shows that a growing number of companies are willing to hire or make investments. Another metric, the CFO Optimism Index, shows corporate finance chiefs nationwide are more optimistic than they were two or three months ago. 
  • The most recent survey from the National Association for Business Economics indicated that just 12% of survey participants expect their sales to fall in Q4, down from 67% who expected their Q2 sales to fall back in March. Most respondents said they anticipate sales will increase or remain the same this quarter. 
  • Of the 22 million jobs lost nationwide since the pandemic began, companies have added back 11.4 million jobs, bringing the deficit to 10.7 million. Jankowski said for the U.S. to continue to regain jobs, three things need to happen: a Congressional stimulus package, an effective vaccine and increased consumer confidence. 
  • U.S. continuing unemployment insurance claims are now around 23 million per week, down from a height of over 32 million earlier in the year. That’s still well above the average of 2 million pre-pandemic. 
  • Here in the Houston region, companies shed a total of 365,000 jobs since the beginning of the pandemic, adding back 148,000 jobs in recent months, or about 40% of those lost. The majority of the losses have been in sectors such as restaurants and hospitality, construction, professional services and manufacturing. 
  • Local construction starts are down $4.6 billion for the first nine months of this year compared with the same period in 2019. 
  • Container traffic at the port is picking back up. In fact, September traffic was above totals in September 2019. Airport traffic has increased a bit but remains about one-third of where it would normally be for this time of year. 
  • Roughly 181,000 vehicles have been sold in the area so far this year, down from 217,000 during the same period in 2019. 
  • Jankowski said he doesn’t expect Houston’s GDP will recover until the middle of 2021 at the earliest. It could take three to five years for local employment to fully recover. Unlike past post-recession recoveries where Houston has benefited from the energy industry, Jankowski said this time the region will instead rise and fall with the health of the national economy.  

Jankowski will give his annual Houston Region Economic Outlook presentation on December 8, including a sector-by-sector look at employment and overall industry health in the year ahead. 

See recent key economic indicators and data points
 

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