Recently released data on employment and wage growth by county indicates that several Texas counties fall near the top of the list. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) compiled statistics for the 355 largest counties across the United States with annual average (2018) employment of 75,000 or more for the March 2018 to March 2019 time period. Four of the fastest growing 10 counties in the country in terms of employment were in Texas.
After more than a decade, the amount of household debt (including mortgages) has surpassed pre-Great Recession levels. Sometimes, an upswing in debt of certain types can be a negative signal, such as rising credit card debt in an economic downturn as people try to deal with financial setbacks such as job losses. However, rising debt can also reflect economic strength as increasing numbers of households are willing and able to purchase big-ticket items such as homes and cars.
Growing an economy and encouraging prosperity is difficult work, and the last thing Texas needs is to shoot itself in the foot over a bathroom bill. The state has a lot of things going for it - a large and growing workforce, abundant natural resources (particularly oil and natural gas), a central location, a competitive cost of living, and excellent incentive programs. We also have good things going on in a number of industries ranging from technology to biosciences. We're improving infrastructure, adding top-tier research facilities and medical schools, and emerging as a center for desirable industrial growth and corporate locations and expansions.
We recently passed a notable milestone in the long process of recovering from the Great Recession: household debt levels have surpassed the peak reached during the recession in 2008. In many ways, this rise in consumer debt is a good sign in that it indicates Americans are feeling optimistic enough to take on additional obligations. Moreover, housing markets and credit conditions have normalized to the point where mortgages are trending upward along with loan quality. On the other hand, it can be viewed in a somewhat more negative light in some respects, particularly given that one category responsible for significant growth is student debt which may not be providing adequate returns in terms of enhanced future earning capacity or other educational goals. Let's take a brief look at some of the salient points.
Travel and tourism is an important source of economic activity. Every year, millions of visitors to Texas spend billions of dollars in the state, and hundreds of thousands of individuals across Texas are employed in travel-related industries. I have studied travel and tourism in Texas on a number of occasions dating back more than 30 years. Recently, I estimated that when multiplier effects are considered, the total benefits of travel and tourism industries include more than $128.9 billion in gross product each year and 1.4 million permanent jobs in Texas. This economic activity generates substantial tax revenue, which I found to be $7.0 billion to the State and $3.3 billion to local government entities (including cities, counties, and school districts) each year.
Travel and tourism plays a large role in the Texas economy. Unique traditions and expansive wide-open spaces have lent a genuine mystique to "all things Texas" over the years. Today, the Lone Star State offers countless opportunities for leisure and business travelers--whether intrastate, interstate, or from far-flung places around the globe. From sleepy picturesque towns and winding country roads to enormous high-tech theme parks and world-class museums, and from high school, college, and professional athletic contests to out-of-the way nature trails, fishing holes, and cultural enrichment activities, Texas really is "like a whole other country."
In June, work was completed on an expansion of the Panama Canal, with hopes of increased trade between Asia and the US Gulf and East Coasts. The canal was originally completed in 1914 at a cost of more than $350 million dollars. It took a decade to build the lock canal stretching roughly 50 miles to connect the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. The canal eliminates the need to travel around the southern tip of South America and shortens a sea journey from Asia to the US East Coast by some 8,000 miles.
Every year, millions of travelers come to Texas for both business and leisure purposes. Texas benefits greatly from travel spending from residents of the state as well as travelers from other states or countries.
The US economy is on fairly solid ground, and our latest forecast calls for moderate growth over the long-term horizon. There are several areas of concern and business cycles are inevitable, but on balance, I expect improvement in the years to come.
For the first time since the late-1800s, there are more young adult Americans living with their parents than with a spouse or partner. In fact, about one of every three people in the 18- to 34-year old age group is living with parents. The tendency to move out of the family home for a while but then come back has led to the use of the phrase "boomerang generation" to describe the phenomenon. The social and economic implications are significant.