Depending on how you look at it, there’s good news, or fair-to-middling news for the Texas job market next year.
Texas job growth in 2012 will reach about 2 percent for the third consecutive year, Federal Reserve Senior Economist Keith Phillips said Tuesday.
Two percent equates to a net increase of 200,000 jobs statewide, Phillips said during a luncheon held at the San Antonio branch office of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas and attended by about 60 invited South Texas business leaders.
Texas annual job growth was 2.1 percent in both 2010 and 2011, Phillips said, fueled by expansions in the energy, high-tech and export sectors.
The growth rates for those industries will slow in 2012, Phillips said, but construction in apartments, offices and houses will offset that to keep job growth steady in Texas.
The good news is that there is job growth predicted, and it’s above the growth rate predicted for the nation as a whole. The not so good news is that it’s not any better than it’s been the last two years, which weren’t exactly boffo, and in fact may be a tad below those years. The unknown is how the job growth will compare to the growth in the population of employment-age people. It’s that comparison that will determine Texas’ unemployment rate.
This doesn’t fill me with confidence:
A year ago, Phillips had forecast a 2.7 percent Texas job growth rate. Jobs in the private sector increased at close to that rate. The surprise in 2011 was the loss of local and state government jobs, especially teacher positions, he said.
Fifteen percent of Texas jobs are tied to local and state governments. Budget cuts last year dropped the number of those jobs by 4.4 percent, Phillips said.
“I don’t expect more local and state job cuts in 2012,” he said.
Public sector job losses last year were a surprise? Really? Maybe at this time last year, before the Lege got to work, you could convince yourself that they wouldn’t really take a chainsaw to public education like they did, but the handwriting was certainly on the wall. Not expecting more cuts in 2012 seems like a bad bet to me, because funding reductions to school districts were backloaded a bit. I will not be at all surprised if there are more teacher layoffs this year. I agree that the bulk of the job losses in public education have already occurred, but I do expect there to be more this year. I’ll be glad to be wrong about that.