Economists: Texas economy strong, getting stronger

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 27, 2014 at 5:55 pm •  Published: March 27, 2014
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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The $1.3 trillion Texas economy has completely recovered from the Great Recession and is getting stronger, official and independent economists told state lawmakers Thursday.

Texas and New York are the only two states to have restored all of the jobs lost when the recession hit in 2007, said John Heleman, chief revenue estimator in the Texas comptroller's office. The Texas economy is now larger than those in Michigan, North Carolina and Georgia combined, he added.

"The Texas economy is on the same trajectory that we've been on as we've recovered from recession and entered into a phase of expansion," he told the House Business and Industry Committee. "We've recovered much more robustly and have moved on. Other states are still trying to recover."

Oil and gas production has doubled over the last six years and the state's rainy day fund will have $8 billion at the end of the 2014-2015 budget year, even if voters in November approve using $4 billion of that fund for roads and highways, Heleman said.

Increased housing starts and automobile sales also have helped spur the recovery, he added.

Texas unemployment is down to 5.7 percent, about a point lower than the national average, and the state's average home price has broken $200,000 for the first time ever. Consumer confidence in Texas is above average, while it remains low in California, Ohio and other Midwestern states, Heleman said.

Independent economist Ray Perryman said Texas lost 400,000 jobs between 2007 and 2011, but has since added more than a million. But he noted that those who lost their jobs may not have gotten one of the new ones.

He said the current oil and gas boom is fundamentally different from one in the late 1970s because it is driven by increased demand and production, not just higher prices. But Perryman warned that Texas needs to make major investments in roads and better schools that produce more graduates among the state's fast-growing Hispanic community.