Institute For Regional Forecasting

Spring 2014 Symposium

Thursday, May 22, 2014

"While Upstream Oil Cools Down, What Drives
Houston's Economy Forward Now?"

Event Details

Hyatt Regency Hotel (Imperial Ballroom), 1200 Louisiana, Houston, Texas 77002

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Luncheon & Presentation:
11:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.

For a decade the formula for Houston’s growth has been simple: oil priced at $100 per barrel and a revolution in drilling technology allowed the local economy to ride the back of the greatest domestic oil boom ever experienced. While oil-field activity continues at very high levels, E&P spending has pulled back from the extraordinary 20 percent per year pace of 2002-2012, and is projected to grow at much slower rates in the years to come. The collapse of natural gas-directed drilling in late 2011 has left the rig count down by over 10 percent, and it will be several years before growing demand for natural gas from exports, utilities, and petrochemical can bring them back on line.

Newly revised data on Houston’s employment confirm that a slowdown in local job growth began in mid-2013. As we forecast over a year ago, employment slowed from the extraordinary 4.0-plus percent growth rate of 2012, to a still-solid 76,000 jobs and 2.8 percent. Going forward, can Houston keep the growth rate above its long-term trend growth of 2.2 percent? The revised data also confirm the role of energy in the pullback. Job growth in oil production, oil services, machinery, and manufacturing that were growing at 15 percent annual rates in late 2011, has pulled back to 2 to 4 percent.

As we reassess the outlook, there are two key questions. First, how dependent are we on the upstream today. Concerns about diversification have been more or less shelved while oil and gas carried the economy so well. Second, where do we turn to fill in the gap left by the upstream? There are solid prospects: a major expansion of refining and chemical construction on the east side, a rapidly healing U.S. economy, and even old friends like the Johnson Space Center and Texas Medical Center. We will pull all this together to reassess Houston’s job growth in 2014 and beyond.

Hyatt Regency Hotel Houston Texas

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