Following two years of recovery in 2017 and 2018, job growth in Houston is expected to level off and remain stable for 2019, said Patrick Jankowski, senior vice president of research at the Greater Houston Partnership. Houston will see an increase of 71,000 jobs this year compared to 73,000 last year, Jankowski said.
“The job growth we are experiencing now is sustainable,” he said at the 2019 Economic Outlook Forum on March 29. “We are pretty much back to where we should be for job creation.”
With job stability, stable oil prices and robust trade and investment, Houston is set for job growth in all industries, Jankowski said, adding he does not see a recession on the near horizon as other analysts have warned.
“The economy is in the best shape since the beginning of the decade,” he said.
The majority of the job growth will fall under health care at 9,000 positions, followed by construction and administrative support at 8,900 and 7,600 positions, respectively. By comparison, only 1,900 new jobs will be in the oil and gas sector, he said.
With oil prices hovering between $58-$59 per barrel this year, the energy sector is recovering, and gasoline remains affordable, he said.
“The energy business is profitable again,” Jankowski said. “We may see some job cuts, but those aren’t associated with trying to survive. That’s going to be associated with someone selling an asset [for example].”
However, as the oil and gas industry invests in technologies that streamline processes and improve efficiency, the sector is increasing production with fewer people.
“The energy industry has become so efficient—they understand the geology better; they are chasing technology [improvements]. ... [The industry] is able to produce more oil with fewer people,” he said. “I hate to say this, but we may never get back up to employment levels of 2014 because the energy industry doesn’t need to have people to grow production.”
That means job growth in Houston will no longer be fueled primarily by the oil and gas sector.
“I guess my message out to you is if you are counting on the oil and gas industry coming back and that’s how you’re going to make a killing, ... you shouldn’t be looking there,” Jankowski said. “There are opportunities, but it’s not going to be the juice to this economy that we had the first part of this decade.”