The Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land metro area created 18,700 jobs in April, according to data released today by the Texas Workforce Commission. That represents one of the best Aprils in the past 35 years. When Houston’s economy is in a recovery or growth mode, the region typically creates between 8,000 and 12,000 jobs.
Houston employment follows a seasonal pattern, with significant job losses in January followed by job gains through the spring. All sectors report losses the first month of the year, but six bear the brunt of the layoffs: retail, finance, business services, administrative support (e.g., janitorial and contract work), leisure and hospitality (e.g., restaurants and bars), and public education. The combined losses range between 40,000 and 50,000 jobs.
Job growth typically resumes in February with the region creating enough jobs by April or May to offset January’s losses. With this April’s robust performance, year-to-date job growth turned positive, the region adding 6,800 jobs since the first of the year.
Of note in today’s report is that employment services, a subset of professional and business services, added 4,800 jobs in April. This sector tends to act as a bellwether for the rest of the economy, being the first to lose jobs going into a downturn and the first to experience strong job growth as the economy recovers. Houston has seen growth in employment services for 11 of the past 12 months. The jobs gains in February, March and April were particularly strong, suggesting Houston’s economy is well on the road to recovery.
Today’s report, however, shows that oil and gas continues to struggle, the downshift in construction starts has begun to affect employment in that sector, and the finance and insurance sector has weakened. On the bright side, growth has returned to the transportation and wholesale trade sectors. This is most likely a result of the rise in the rig count and the growing volume of trade through the region’s four ports.
Houston’s April unemployment rate was 5.3 percent, down from 5.7 percent in March but up from 4.8 percent in April ’16. Texas’ unemployment rate was 4.5 percent in April, down from 5.0 percent in March but up from 4.3 percent in April ’16.
The U.S. rate was 4.1 percent in April, down from 4.9 percent in March and from 4.7 percent in April ’16. The rates are not seasonally adjusted.
Prepared by Greater Houston Partnership Research Department
Patrick Jankowski, CCR Senior Vice President, Research
Jenny Philip Director, Economic Research