The jobs machine known as North Texas ended 2013 on a flat note, with essentially no payroll jobs added in November, followed by a large 10,400 net job loss in December. Reduced federal spending through 2013 was certainly a drag for specific industries. However, the December jobs loss reported for North Texas was broad-based across industries in the official data, out of character with anecdotal evidence at year-end. This suggests that there is a possibility of an eventual upward revision to the year-end data. It also suggests that it is premature to change our view that the North Texas economy remains a strong job generator. Certainly, if we were to see ongoing weak job growth in 2014, that would cause us to re-evaluate our assumptions.
Positive business news for North Texas is abundant. Both DFW Airport and Love Field are increasing in importance as major air transportation hubs. American Airlines is hard at work combining with the former US Airways. Southwest Airlines will add 15 new nonstop destinations from Love Field this fall. Ground transportation is also an important sector for the regional economy. Several speculative warehouse/distribution facilities are under construction in the area. Rail transportation is in the news as state and local officials discuss the possibility of a high-speed commuter line connecting Dallas to Fort Worth. Separately, there appears to be growing momentum for north/south high speed rail, possibly running from Oklahoma City to Dallas to Houston to Monterrey, Mexico.
Oil prices have firmed up, now near $100/bbl for WTI as of this writing. Natural gas prices have been boosted by strong demand due to a colder-than-normal winter. NG futures crested $5/mmBtu in late January, and have since relaxed to about $4.75. Texas drilling activity remains strong.
Click here for the complete North Texas MSA Regional Economic Update: NorthTexas 2013Q4.