After recording the first annual decline in jobs in The Woodlands area last year, Gil Staley, CEO of The Woodlands Area Economic Development Partnership, reported the region grew to more than 40,000 employees among 86 major nonretail employers in 2023.

At the 37th annual Economic Outlook Conference held by The Woodlands Area Chamber of Commerce at The Woodlands Waterway Marriott Hotel & Convention Center, Staley presented the EDP’s annual report, highlighting employers and employment sectors in the region.

In 2022, nonretail major employers reported 36,673 employees, down from 38,660 in 2021. However, in 2023, the region has 40,119 employees, an increase of 9.4%, according to Staley.

Staley said major employers are defined as having at least 100 employees.

Health care has remained the region’s top employer with 30.9% of major nonretail employees. Over time, it has overtaken energy as the region’s top employer. Energy represented 27% of area jobs in 2019, but in 2023 it represents 7.7%, the fifth-largest sector, according to the report. This is lower than the sectors of education; professional and business services; and transportation, warehousing and utilities.

The employer with the most employees in The Woodlands area is Conroe ISD, and the next three largest employers are all health care facilities—Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Medical Center, Houston Methodist The Woodlands Hospital and St. Luke’s Health The Woodlands Hospital. In total, there are more than 12,000 health care jobs in the region, Staley said.

“Health care is such an important employer for the state of Texas,” Staley said. “There is a direct correlation between population growth and improved health care and education opportunities.”

The number of nonretail major employers has also increased. In 2003, there were 33 such employers, and in 2013 there were 55. Since 2022, two companies have joined the ranks, increasing from midsize employers—with 40 to 99 employees—to 100 or more. Much growth has been organic in this way, he said, with smaller companies gradually becoming larger.

“When I talked about business retention and expansion, that’s what I’m talking about,” Staley said.

Among the major employment sectors in The Woodlands area are 13 different categories, Staley said, ranging from health care and education to smaller sectors such as life science, which makes up 0.8% of jobs. However, he noted, additional life sciences companies are locating in The Woodlands, including Cellipont and Nurix Therapeutics. He said the EDP has requests for proposals out with three more life sciences companies that he is “very hopeful” about. However, the region’s diversity in sectors adds to its overall economic health and versatility, he said.

“That is what you’re looking for in a community, a healthy employer group that’s diverse,” Staley said. “When you have a downturn in a sector, you hope this is the case because you can absorb any downturn in a single industry.”

Among other statistics, he added 83 of the 86 major employers have in-office employees; 43 have a hybrid option; and 25 have a remote option.

Additionally, in Class A office space, The Woodlands area has 19.2% availability compared to the Houston region, which has 31.5% Class A availability, showing a more robust demand for Class A office space in The Woodlands.

“I leave you today exceptionally optimistic,” Staley said. “Job losses are behind us.”

Major nonretail employers in The Woodlands area in 2023:
Economic sectors in The Woodlands area in 2023:
Number of employees among major nonretail employers:
In-office, hybrid and remote workers: