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Firmer Oil Prices Help Texas, But Recovery in Houston Will Be Slow

November 15, 2016
By Daniel Sanabria

The price for West Texas Intermediate crude oil appears to be stabilizing in the range of $45 to $50 per barrel, providing a floor for drilling activity in Texas. The rig count for the state has bounced off the mid-May low of 173 active rigs, up to 268 by mid-November. Oil producers continue to gain efficiencies, pushing the marginal cost of production lower and so we expect to see ongoing moderate gains in the rig count and associated oil field activity through the end of this year and into early 2017. However, even as we write this, the spot price for WTI has slipped below $45, and there remains a worldwide glut of oil that may take a year or more to absorb, keeping downward pressure on prices. Oil storage in the U.S. is falling off its record peak from this past spring, but progress has been slow. Stronger-than-expected storage numbers in late October through early November brought prices down to $43 by mid-November. Fortunately for Texas, the state economy is fueled by more than just oil. Job growth over the last two years has been remarkably resilient, with just two months, March 2015 and March 2016, showing net job losses. This September the state added 38,300 jobs on net, which is above the monthly average for 2012 and 2013. The contrasting patterns in the state economy are seen in the comparison of the Dallas/Fort Worth metropolitan area and the Houston metropolitan area. Job growth in North Texas remains strong, up 3.8 percent in September over the previous 12 months. Job growth in the Houston MSA has slipped to just 0.5 percent year-over-year as of September. We look for a slow turnaround in Houston in 2017.

For a PDF version of the complete Texas Economic Outlook, click here: TX Outlook 112016.