The Bryan-College Station economy continues to grow despite national fears of an economic slowdown, according to a local index that measures a number of indicators and factors.
At 2.7%, the local unemployment rate reached an all-time low for the second consecutive month, according to the College Station-Bryan Business-Cycle Index, which is released monthly by the Private Enterprise Research Center (PERC) at Texas A&M. The index also shared data on the local health care industry.
PERC Executive Director Dennis Jansen said that the index grew almost 1% from May to June, with local taxable sales rising about 2.1% in June and 3.5% from the June 2018 figure.
“The economy is moving right along,” Jansen said. “There’s talk about recession fears nationally. Locally, there are no current worries. If something happens nationally, that may filter down here eventually, but we’re pretty unaffected by the national cycles.”
The unemployment rate in Texas dropped slightly to 3.4%, while the national unemployment figure increased slightly to 3.7%. The index runs with a lag time of nearly two months, so the unemployment and taxable sales numbers included are accurate as of the end of June.
The index, which is sponsored by the Brazos Valley Economic Development Corporation, is built from four components: wages, the unemployment rate, total nonfarm employment and taxable sales.
Nonfarm employment dropped marginally by 0.1% from May to June. On a year-to-year basis, nonfarm employment has grown 1.5%.
Jansen said that data on wages is released quarterly and not monthly, and that next month’s report would include updated local wage data.
The Bryan-College Station metropolitan statistical area, as defined by the Census Bureau, includes Brazos, Robertson and Burleson counties.
In addition to analysis of its four regular metrics, the index also observes a different topic each month to analyze area economic data. This month’s focus section looked at several metrics related to the health services industry in B-CS and provided comparisons to other metro areas in Texas.
Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the index indicated that 10.4% of jobs filled in the College Station-Bryan area between January and June fell in the health services category.
Andy Rettenmaier, the research center’s associate executive director, said that number is lower than the four major cities in the so-called Texas Triangle. Health services employment as of the end of June was highest in San Antonio, at 15.5%. In Houston it accounted for 12.8%; in Dallas, 12.2%; and in Austin, 11.6%. The state average is 13.6%.
“In terms of employment in the health sector, it is relatively low here,” Rettenmaier said.
Rettenmaier shared a few reasons why health care jobs make up a smaller part of the local economy.
One factor, he said, was the low number of residents 65 and over in the area. The previous month’s index reported that 10.6% of the population in Bryan-College Station is 65 or older, the lowest in the state among larger metro areas.
“If you look at health care spending, it rises by age, so it isn’t surprising that we have a smaller heath care sector in terms of employment,” Rettenmaier said.
He also said that some area residents, especially students, primarily access health care elsewhere.
The index also shared data indicating that though the health services sector in the area is smaller than most places in Texas, earnings per employee within that sector compare favorably to those in many other fields locally.
Of all earnings in B-CS in 2017, 10.2% went to those in health care or social assistance jobs. The state average for metro areas surveyed was 9.7%. San Antonio had the highest share of earnings in the category at 11.3%, and Houston had the lowest at 7.7%.