Jobs Keep Growing, Unemployment Rate Stays Low

Jobs keep growing, unemployment rate stays low as Commerce Bank’s Economic Index hits another record

The number of jobs in the Bryan-College Station economy is growing rapidly and has created a record-low unemployment rate of 2.7 percent in April, the third-lowest in the state and a record for the month.

“People are moving into the area,” said Tom Maynard, senior vice president and regional manager of Commerce National Bank in Bryan/College Station. “The economy is healthy, and employment is good.”

The local economy created 4.5 percent more jobs in the January-April period when compared to the same period last year. That pushed the area’s Index of Economic Indicators to a new high in April, which shows an economy that’s grown 2 percent since April 2017.

The employment growth rates in the Bryan-College Station area continue to rank as third-highest among Texas metro areas behind only the booming petroplex economies of Midland and Odessa. An estimated 4,500 jobs were added over the last 12 months through April, and employment growth was broad-based with no employment category losing jobs.

The government sector and leisure/hospitality – both strongly tied to Texas A&M University – led the way adding 1,400 jobs and 1,500 jobs, respectively, over the last year. Professional and business services added 700 jobs over the last 12 months.

Auto sales, adjusted for inflation, and the level of home sales activity also support the higher index, but general spending was soft and construction activity lower than the levels last year, in terms of total construction and single-family housing.

Auto sales (adjusted for inflation) were up 17.2 percent in April over a year earlier and 10.2 percent higher year-to-date compared with 2017.

Real consumer spending, as measured by retail sales, was down by 1.8 percent compared to the first quarter 2017. Through April, general real spending was down by 1.9 percent compared to the first four months of a year ago.

Bryan-College Station saw a record-setting construction boom in 2015 and 2016, but the value of building permits (adjusted for inflation) fell in 2017 and continue to drop in 2018. The total value of 2018 permits through April is down more than 40 percent compared to the January-April 2017 total, which in turn was down by about 16 percent year-over-year.

Single-family housing construction continues its downward trend in 2018 as well. The number of new permits pulled was off by some 26 percent in the first quarter compared to year-ago levels and is down by about 22 percent through April.

The market has a decent amount of inventory, explained Maynard for the softer numbers.

Sales of existing home tell a different story. The dollar volume of residential sales rose 14.3 percent in April and 1.9 percent year-to-date. The number of sales increased sharply in April – by 19.6 percent, but the average price of the homes declined 1.8 percent.

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