Geography, political leanings and personal experience all impact how one perceives or reports on the state of the economy, said Patrick Jankowski, senior vice president of research for the Greater Houston Partnership.

“Two people can look at the exact same data, the exact same set of numbers, [and] see something totally different in them,” he said at the July 18 Cy-Fair Houston Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

Diving in deeper

Someone living in Houston, where 140% of jobs lost in the COVID-19 pandemic have been recovered, may be more optimistic about the economy than someone living in New York City, Boston or Los Angeles—cities that have just recently recovered jobs lost, Jankowski said.

Republicans and Democrats may also view the nation’s economy differently depending on which party is in leadership. However, a Pew Research Center survey in late June reported both Republicans and Democrats ranked inflation as the biggest problem in the U.S. The affordability of health care, the ability of Democrats and Republicans to work together, drug addiction, and gun violence followed as top concerns behind inflation.

“We pull up to the gas station; we go and try to buy a loaf of bread, try to take our wife out to eat; and we’ll pay much more now than we paid a few years ago,” Jankowski said. “And that is influencing how we feel about the economy. It's not jobs; it's not interest rates; it’s not what’s happening in the stock market. It’s inflation; it’s very personal.”

Employment levels and the performance of different industries may also influence one’s outlook on the economy. Jankowski said when looking at the manufacturing sector or construction projections heading into next year, there could be cause for concern. However, retail sales, job growth, residential construction, vehicle sales, travel and other factors indicate a strong economy, he said.

The bottom line

Jankowski said more people are working in the Houston region than ever before. Additionally, there are more job openings than before the pandemic, which indicates companies are getting enough business to necessitate more labor.

With a 4.4% unemployment rate, Jankowski said companies aren’t likely to lay off employees as finding employees is hard enough as it is. He said he expects a total of 60,000-80,000 jobs to be added to the Houston region in 2023, which is on par with or slightly better than an average year.

Jankowski also said he does not anticipate a recession this year, but time will tell regarding the economy’s future.

“My view is we're going to have slower growth in the U.S. but no recession—at least not yet. That doesn’t mean we won't have a recession somewhere down the road, but we're not going to have one this year,” he said.