The Texas economy is entering a critical period in the second half of 2016 as the downdraft from the energy sector reset continues to roll through the state. Fortunately, to date, the drag on the overall state economy from reduced oil-field activity has not been as bad as we first thought. In July, the state added 23,600 payroll jobs, still up 1.5 percent over the previous 12 months. The climb in oil prices from the February low of $27 per barrel for WTI, to above $50 by early June was a cause for optimism, but the oil market got ahead of itself, and WTI fell below $40 per barrel by early August. Recent gains, to near $48, are again invigorating the optimists. The drilling rig count for Texas has firmed from a low of 173 rigs in late May to 238 rigs through mid-August. Also we see that new orders for mining equipment increased through May and June, but this was up from April, which was the worst month in the history of that series, dating back to 1992. We still show a mild recession for Texas in our forecast for this year. We believe that by the end of this year, the Texas economy will stabilize and then expand consistently through 2017. This forecast is based on our assumption that oil prices are stabilizing, and will gradually increase through next year, supporting moderately stronger oil field activity. Houston is still struggling and the metro area accounts for a quarter of all jobs in Texas. Almost all economic metrics for Houston are still showing signs of stress. Job growth in June and July was modest, but positive, after a net loss in May. We expect Houston to struggle with weak net job growth through the remainder of this year.
For a PDF version of the complete Texas Economic Outlook, click here: TX Outlook 082016.