Rather than listen to the banter on how the Texas job market is doing I decided to pack my bags and see for myself. After spending over two weeks in Texas and Louisiana I feel the reports were correct, this part of the country is experiencing strong job growth across the board. For example, one of the suburbs north of downtown Houston is putting up a Whole Foods along with high end shops that cater to an expanding market niche. I travel the country from coast to coast and have never seen more hiring signs on employer windows while than on this trip. This part of the country may not be the most accurate indicator of the current U.S. job market, but it does substantiate the fact that there is healthy job growth in certain parts of the country.
The Current Landscape
There are currently over 12 million people out of work and many more working part-time that would like to work full-time. The national unemployment rate stands at near 8%, and the U.S. GDP is expected to grow at 2% in 2013. Not great by historic standards, but far better than 2009. It is also better than places like Brazil or Italy where I have many family members. Regarding the job market some places are doing better than others. Case in point: San Jose is doing much better than here in New York City. The job market in the Big Apple was moving along slowly in 2012, but Hurricane Sandy has affected job growth in places like Queens and Staten Island. Again, like housing markets, job markets must be looked at in the same manner. Drivers must be in place to create job growth like technology in San Jose or oil & gas in Houston.
Houston & New Orleans
Places like the Vintage in north Houston are indicators of the vibrant growth. New homes and high-end shops in a newly build mall really showcase the vibrancy of the area. Luxury goods, along with amenities (e.g., spa, health club, etc.) are all located in a one mile radius. One evening I had a chance to dine at Perry’s, which matched my reference experience at the Chicago Chop House. An infrastructure like this does not exist unless there is strong growth, which seemed to be the case in Houston. A number of people explained that there was great demand for engineers in fields related to aerospace, along with oil & gas. Yet another group told me about the ever expanding healthcare industry, which is hiring at vigorous pace. All one has to do is travel along 45 and 10 to see vibrancy of the area.
I decided to travel east on 10 to Baton Rouge and then on to New Orleans. This was my first trip to New Orleans, which was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina back in 2005. I recently toured the Lower East Side in Manhattan after Hurricane Sandy and was bracing myself for the worst. Staying only a few blocks from the Super Dome I was surprised to see a clean and lovely city. The French Quarter is an American gem, and all one has to do is visit Royal Street to substantiate this last statement. The architecture is very interesting and the food from Mother’s to Herbsaint spectacular. Tourists from around the world were all about the city from Christmas to the New Year. Businesses seem to be doing well and the city seems to have healed well after the terrible event of 2005. On my way back I had a chance to stop off in the Lake Charles region and speak to people about the employment picture. While not great, one woman was glad she moved from Pittsburgh to Louisiana because of the stronger job market.
The only time I have seen such a strong job picture was in California in the late 1990’s. Very impressive to say the least.
My trip to Texas and Louisiana was like a breath of fresh air after listening to all the negative news regarding the Fiscal Cliff. The one big takeaway was hope. It demonstrated that healthy job growth, along with a strong housing market does indeed exist in America today.