By Mary Alys Cherry
“We are in full recovery in this region. Unemployment is dropping drastically and we continue to grow jobs.”
Those were the words of Dr. Robert Hodgin as he gave a 30-year perspective to the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership at its annual State of the Economy Luncheon at the Clear Lake Hilton.
In fact, he added, “we have more people working now than ever before.”
Joining him in predicting “What Lies Ahead?” was Dr. Jason Murasko. Both are associate professors of economics at the University of Houston-Clear Lake.
Hodgin first took the luncheon crowd back to 1980 when NASA Road 1 was only two lanes, most water craft was sail-powered, a drawbridge separated Seabrook and Kemah and South Shore Harbour was only a concept.
Clear Lake City Boulevard did not exist, Space Center Boulevard ended near NASA’s big swimming pool and travel from La Porte to Baytown was through an underground tunnel. But things began to change as the population grew an average of 3.3 percent annually and the population became better educated – growing from 21 percent with bachelor degrees in 1990 to 27 percent in 2010.
Today, with 36 percent of the population in management, business, science and the arts, 18 percent of our residents earn between $50,000 and $75,000; 13 percent between $75,000 and $100,000; and 17 percent between $100,000 and $150,000, Hodgin said. Approximately 5 percent earn $200,000 or more while a like number earn less than $10,000.
While the U.S. has a 7.8 unemployment rate, the Bay Area’s unemployment is only 6 percent with “employment opportunities abounding in the region – driven by health care expansion, increased maritime activity and specialty chemical products.”
Looking ahead, Murasko feels the economy, in the short term, “looks very, very good.”
Yet, there’s things to consider in the months ahead, he pointed out, such as the direction of aerospace, the long-term federal budget, the keystone pipeline, natural gas prices, the European economy and Middle East conflicts.
But with the Bay Area’s young and well educated workforce, the infrastructure is there to support modest growth in economic activity in the days ahead.