When it comes to the Houston job market, the theme seems to be 'at least it's getting better." The latest figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show that the job growth rate in the Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land area for the year ending in January 2017 was 0.3 percent. That ranked the lowest among the top 12 metropolitan areas measured by the BLS. Dallas-Fort Worth ranked first among the top metro areas with a 4.0 percent job growth rate.
But the news isn't all bad for Houston. "The fact that it's a slight uptick over the year, that is encouraging as far as the oil and gas sector is concerned," says Cheryl Abbott, senior economist with the BLS. She tells KTRH that last year, Houston had a negative job growth rate. "So you've turned back to positive year-over-year growth which is a good sign, and you do have increases in some sectors."
Indeed, Houston is still recovering from the oil price crash of 2014, which led to thousands of jobs lost in the oil/gas and energy sector and has stunted job growth in the past two years. "Some sectors are still struggling---oil and gas are struggling, construction is struggling, but we're starting to see growth in several other areas," says Patrick Jankowski with the Greater Houston Partnership. "We are starting to see improvement in manufacturing, we're seeing improvement in healthcare, we're seeing improvement in leisure and hospitality, and in the government sector which is primarily education workers."
The BLS numbers show the biggest job gains in the Houston area over the past year were government, education and health services. Each added more than 10,000 jobs during the year. Meanwhile, manufacturing, mining and logging, and construction saw the biggest job losses.
Overall, the Houston area job market is back on the uptick after hitting rock-bottom last summer, according to Jankowski. "We just came out of a real bad downturn, so it's going to take us a little while to get back to our long-term average (job growth)," he says.