March 27, 2012
Even before Apple Inc. showed up with its proposal to create 3,600 new jobs in town, Austin has been doing better than almost any other major urban area in the country at expanding its employment base.
Revised employment figures released a few weeks ago confirmed the trend. Austin ranked No. 1 among the nation's 50 largest metro areas in job growth over the past eight years. Its 140,200 new jobs represented a 21.3 percent increase from the start of 2004, which put it well ahead of second-place Houston, which had 15.7 percent job growth.
For 2011 alone, Austin was
No. 2 in the nation in job growth. Houston, with its rapidly expanding energy sector, edged out Austin for the national lead with a 3.7 percent increase in jobs, compared with Austin's 3.5 percent.
Gary Farmer, who heads the business-supported Opportunity Austin economic development program, said the area's job growth didn't just happen by accident.
Farmer's organization, which works closely with the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, has successfully recruited 225 new companies to the Austin metro area over the past eight years, bringing in tens of thousands of jobs. The organization recorded 35 corporate relocation or expansion announcements in 2011, which accounted for 4,096 projected new jobs and an estimated $1.2 billion in new economic activity in the area....
Bernard Weinstein, an economist at Southern Methodist University's Cox School of Business, said Texas as a whole is seeing more job growth than most other states, and Austin and Houston are leading the way.
"Right now, the superstars of job growth are Austin and Houston," Weinstein said.
Houston, he said, is benefiting from a boom in the oil and gas industry and Austin from its expanding technology sector.
"Austin markets its amenities and the skills of its workforce," he said. "And having the University of Texas there is a tremendous asset."
Texas has been helped by an inflow of residents from other states for a few decades now, Weinstein said. "I expect the pace of in-migration into Texas to pick up in the future. That is what has happened after previous recessions."
Businesses weigh their options carefully during a recession, he said, and after business picks up, some of them are ready to move.
"That is happening in Texas right now," he said. "It would be happening even faster except that a lot of folks in other parts of the country are having trouble selling their houses and they are locked in."