Houston's biggest job gains and losses, effects of Harvey: takeaways from the annual Economic Outlook Forum

Speakers discuss transportation issues affecting the Greater Houston area at the Houston Northwest Chamber of Commerce Economic Outlook Forum held at Southwestern Energy on March 23.

Speakers discuss transportation issues affecting the Greater Houston area at the Houston Northwest Chamber of Commerce Economic Outlook Forum held at Southwestern Energy on March 23.

The annual Houston Northwest Chamber of Commerce Economic Outlook Forum, held March 23 at Southwestern Energy off I-45 N., gathered area economic experts and representatives from business and government to report on trends and forecast the direction the region could take in the coming years.

Speakers also reflected on the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey and subsequent recovery efforts, along with the lasting impact the storm will have on the region’s economic future.

Job growth and losses

Patrick Jankowski of Greater Houston Partnership said the region’s economy shifted away from oil and gas after oil prices dropped in 2015, but new jobs have largely been in lower-paying job sectors.

“The bad news is, we’ve just got the data for the past few years and it turns out that Houston did not perform as well as originally thought in 2015 and 2016,” Jankowski said. “Previously, we could make the claim that we had gone through the downturn without any net loss in jobs … but we actually lost jobs in 2015-16. A very shallow loss, but that shallow loss represents the 'R' word,” Jankowski, said referring to a recession.

The good news is that job growth has picked up, he said.

The area lost about 78,000 jobs in oil and gas from December 2014 to December 2017 and gained 87,800 non-energy jobs. Industries that gained jobs included those in hotels, restaurants, bars, health care, retail and public education, Jankowski said. Those jobs, however, generally have lower wages, he said.

Adjusted for inflation, the area has lost $5.8 billion in wages, which in turn limits the amount that people are able to spend, he said.

Lack of job growth has translated to lower population growth numbers, Jankowski said, except in international migration, which remains robust.

Growth in retail

Retail has seen huge growth, particularly in Northwest Houston, HNWCC Director of Economic Development Bobby Lieb said.

“Retail has been a very strong sector for Houston Northwest,” Lieb said. “We’ve had decreasing vacancies and dramatically increasing rental rates.”

For the past 12 months, Houston Metro added 5 million square feet of retail, of whichNorthwest Houston absorbed 1.35 million square feet of that space. That’s a 44 percent increase over the five-year average for the region, he said.

Harvey challenges

In addition to the economic downturn that hit the energy industry, the area’s greatest challenge in recent years was the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey.

The estimate for damage caused in the Greater Houston area is now $73.5 billion, Jankowski said.

While many businesses have renovated and reopened after flooding, other challenges include how to use vacated space such as the 2 million square feet of office space formerly used by Hewlett Packard Enterprise near Hwy. 249, Lieb said.

“I believe we will struggle for the next few years while we have the stigma of Harvey, and it will be difficult to attract new significant employers that are not location dependent,” Lieb said. “We will attract companies that need to be in Houston, but the Amazons of the world are going to look the other way until Harvey is a distant memory.”

Lieb said he believes Houston will continue to add energy and manufacturing jobs in 2018 if oil remains more than $60 a barrel, and growth in the retail and service sector will begin to taper off.

Other speakers at the forum included Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale, who discussed community efforts for Hurricane Harvey recovery, as well as representatives from the rail, port and aviation industries. U.S. Rep. Ted Poe, R-Humble, and U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-The Woodlands, also spoke at the event, and Texas Association of Business CEO Jeff Moseley gave the keynote address.
By Vanessa Holt
A resident of the Houston area since 2011, Vanessa began working in community journalism in her home state of New Jersey in 1996. She joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2016 as a reporter for the Spring/Klein edition and became editor of that paper in March 2017 and editor of The Woodlands edition in January 2019.


Total cases have risen to 13,268 in Harris County, 7,812 of which are considered active while 5,215 are confirmed to have recovered. A total of 241 people are confirmed to have died from the coronavirus in the county.(Community Impact staff)
Harris County coronavirus count: 241 new cases, 5 deaths confirmed June 3

Meanwhile, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said 45% of new cases statewide between May 26 and June 2 can be tied to prisons, jails, meat packing plants or nursing homes.

The county's total COVID-19 case count rose by more than 20 June 3, alongside dozens of new recoveries. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
COVID-19 recoveries jump in Montgomery County; total case count continues to grow

The county reported more than 60 new COVID-19 recoveries June 3 alongside 23 new cases.

Houston police department
Houston residents call for police reforms, reduced budget at City Council hearing

The day after a march honoring Houston native George Floyd, speakers called for more spending on social services and better police oversight.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced Phase 3 of his Open Texas plan June 3. (Brian Rash/Community Impact Newspaper)
Gov. Greg Abbott's June 3 guidelines allow most Texas businesses to operate at 50% capacity

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott continues to lift coronavirus-related business restrictions.

Participants held fists in the air during a moment of silence at a June 2 protest over the death of George Floyd. (Emma Whalen/Community Impact Newspaper)
Q&A: Criminal justice research expert weighs in on George Floyd protests and the sentiments driving them

"I think the data is clear and convincing that there is a problem. I think that we now have societal consensus of that problem and accepting that data."

Houston Food Bank is looking for more volunteers as it handles increased food distribution during COVID-19. (Courtesy Houston Food Bank)
Houston Food Bank: Volunteers needed now more than ever

The Houston Food Bank is distributing more than double the usual amount of food throughout the community.

America's ER operated a drive-thru testing site in The Woodlands in mid-April, which later moved to WoodsEdge Community Church. (Andy Li/Community Impact Newspaper)
America's ER to move to COVID-19 testing by appointment June 8 at Cypress, Magnolia facilities; large-scale testing site closes June 4

While the drive-thru testing site will close permanently June 4, testing will still be available by appointment beginning June 6 at America's ER facilities in Cypress and Magnolia, officials said in a June 2 statement.

(Adriana Rezal/Community Impact Newspaper)
PHOTOS: Scenes from the downtown Houston march for George Floyd

People of all ages, colors and creeds packed downtown Houston June 2 to march in memory of former Houston resident George Floyd.

Smartphone data analysis by Cuebiq shows how Montgomery County residents' mobility habits changed throughout this spring. (April Halpin/Community Impact Newspaper)
DATA: See how Montgomery County residents' mobility changed through stay-at-home orders, economic reopening

Cell phone location data analysis from tracked by Cuebiq shows how resident travel patterns changed through the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Humble Police Department has been positioning officers at Deerbrook Mall and other businesses to deter looting amid protests for George Floyd. (Kelly Schafler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Humble Police Department positions officers at Deerbrook Mall, other businesses to deter looting

The Humble Police Department is preparing for any unrest that could come from events protesting the death of George Floyd, a black man who died while in the custody of the Minneapolis Police Department on May 25.

As protests over the death of George Floyd continue, the Harris County Public Health Department released a statement asking people to take precautionary measures if they plan to attend a protest. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Harris County coronavirus count: County tops 350 new cases for second straight day

As protests over the death of George Floyd continue, the Harris County Public Health Department released a statement asking people to take precautionary measures if they plan to attend a protest.

Nola Z. Valente/Community Impact Newspaper
60,000 gather in downtown Houston June 2 in solidarity with George Floyd's family

Among a series of marches across the U.S. to honor George Floyd, his hometown of Houston turned out in the thousands June 2.