A Look Back By Dr. M. Ray Perryman

Dr. M. Ray Perryman

Published in syndication on December 30, 2019

From an economic perspective, 2019 was a solid year, with continued expansion, job, and wage gains, and progress on many (but not all) fronts. Let’s take a brief look back at 2019 and the past decade.

Through the year, the national economy added jobs at a notable pace, frequently exceeding expectations. Job gains averaged about 180,000 per month through November, with particularly strong growth in healthcare (up 414,000 jobs), professional and technical services (+278,000), and leisure and hospitality. This pace lags that of the past decade (around 220,000 per month) but is impressive for a mature recovery period.

Twenty-five states had over-the-year increases in employment as of November, with the largest job gains occurring in Texas (+336,700), California (+321,800), and Florida (+217,400). For Texas to add more jobs than California is noteworthy given that the California economy is notably larger. In fact, Texas was among states with the largest percentage gains (which is difficult for a large economy), tying for second with Idaho (at 2.7% growth) and behind only Utah (up 3.2%).

National unemployment rates remained below 4% throughout the year, which is lower than what is viewed as optimal to allow sufficient slack for the economy to function efficiently. The strong job market pushed wages up by 3.1%, well above inflation.

Part of the slowing in job growth was due to a lack of available workers. Job openings remained well over seven million, with needs for particularly large numbers of workers in health care, professional and business services, and retail. However, the total number of unemployed persons is trending significantly lower (below six million). Given the inevitable mismatch of skill sets and locations, many of these openings will be difficult to fill.

For the decade as a whole, the short-term topic of greatest conversation will no doubt be the fact that, for the first time, we experienced an entire calendar decade without a recession. Despite fluctuations in key sectors, inconsistencies in policy, international events and disruptions of major proportions, and cataclysmic natural disasters, the US economy managed to forge ahead.

The more profound topic that will occupy historians in the future, however, will be the fundamental shift in the global energy markets that emerged. The US rose to the forefront of production, new technologies were implemented, major investments in infrastructure were undertaken, and supply and demand patterns throughout the world were completely reoriented. Fortunately, Texas and, in particular, the Permian Basin lie at the epicenter of this phenomenon, which will have positive implications for centuries to come.

We enter a new decade with plenty of daunting challenges (topics for another day), but also with a solid foundation on which to build a better economic future. Happy New Year!!

The Perryman Group is a focused team of analysts who know how to address complex economic information tasks and present our findings effectively.

Our in-house professionals bring expertise in economics, finance, statistics, mathematics, real estate, valuation, systems analysis, engineering, technical communications, and marketing. Dr. Ray Perryman, President and CEO, has more than 40 years of experience in developing systems, analyzing complex problems, and communicating effectively.

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