The Bryan-College Station economy declined slightly for the third consecutive month, according to the College Station-Bryan Business-Cycle Index, which measures several economic factors. The index also found a B-CS population growth rate this decade that is faster than comparable cities such as Waco and Ann Arbor, Michigan.
The Business-Cycle Index decreased by 0.1% between February and March 2019, resulting in an annualized rate of minus 1.1%.
“The overall story is that the local economy has slowed down a bit,” Dennis Jansen, executive director of the Private Enterprise Research Center at Texas A&M, said Tuesday.
“I don’t think there is cause for alarm,” Jansen said. “There’s a lot of evidence from around the state and around the country that there is no cause for alarm — that the economy is slower than it had been six months ago but that it is up over the past year.”
Jansen and Andy Rettenmaier, PERC’s associate executive director, said that the data and method used by the index has shifted or “smoothed out” a bit, slightly altering their findings and painting a less negative picture than did reports from the past few months.
The index has about a two-month lag time, meaning it looks at numbers from March and earlier. The Brazos Valley Economic Development Corporation sponsors the monthly index, which is comprised of four components: the unemployment rate, total nonfarm employment, wages and taxable sales.
“The unemployment rate is stable, nonfarm employment has risen a bit, and real taxable sales declined a bit — and altogether, that’s what produces the slowdown that we’re seeing,” Rettenmaier said.
Rettenmaier said that nonfarm employment in the College Station-Bryan metro area increased 0.3 percent from February to March of this year. It has grown about 2.1 percent from its March 2018 level.
According to a separate report, the Texas A&M Real Estate Center’s Monthly Review of the Texas Economy, the economy in the Lone Star State continues to grow faster than the country’s. The report states that Texas gained 294,200 nonagricultural jobs from April 2018 to April 2019, an annual growth rate of 2.4%, higher than the nation’s employment growth rate of 1.8%. The nongovernment sector added 283,000 jobs, an annual growth rate of 2.7%, also more than the nation’s employment growth rate of 2% in the private sector.
The Real Estate Center report said that mining and logging, along with construction and leisure and hospitality, were industries that paced positive job creation numbers in the state.
According to the PERC report, the unemployment rate, at a level of 3.0 percent, remained steady from the previous month. The current rate in B-CS remains lower than the rate for Texas and for the U.S., which Rettenmaier and Jansen described as typical. Both the Texas and national unemployment rates were 3.8%.
The College Station-Bryan metro area is defined by the Census Bureau and includes Brazos, Robertson and Burleson counties.
Rettenmaier and Jansen, who also work as Texas A&M professors of economics, reflected on the report’s analysis of local population growth trends as compared to other metro areas in Texas and nationally.
The index, they said, first looked at components of population growth from 2017 to 2018, and then considered the components of year-to-year population change in the Bryan-College Station metro area from 2010 to 2018. For this decade’s numbers, they analyzed 10 cities of similar size, all of which are deeply impacted by one major university.
The B-CS population grew 14.4% from 2010 to 2018, which is higher than Waco’s 7.1% rate of growth over the same time frame. Ann Arbor, Michigan and Champaign-Urbana, Illinois grew 7.3% and 3.2%, respectively. Bryan-College Station was outpaced only by Fort Collins, Colorado’s 16.7% rate of growth and the Auburn-Opelika (Alabama) metro area population increase of 16.4%.
From 2017 to 2018, the College Station-Bryan metro area experienced a 1.4% bump in population, with Waco growing 1.3% and Lubbock 0.8%.