Economic fortune tellers at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas this week painted a robust picture of Texas job growth in 2017, as the state pulls out of a two-year energy slump and major metro areas continue to boom.
"Job growth picked up in the second half of 2016 due to a stabilization of the energy sector," Keith Phillips, a senior economist for the bank, said in a statement. "With that positive momentum, the Texas economy enters 2017 poised to shift into 'second gear.'"
What will that look like? According to a Dallas Fed forecast released Tuesday, that will mean 2 percent job growth in 2017.
That's about 242,000 more jobs for Texans.
Economists have noted that's on trend for fast-growing Texas — except for the past two years, during which low oil prices and a strong dollar hindered job creation.
Still, Phillips said, "Texas fared better than the other energy states" in 2015 and 2016, largely because the state's service sector and "the I-35 corridor" (Dallas, Austin, San Antonio) weren't affected much by the oil bust.
Though final job numbers for December won't be out until next week, based on the 11 prior months, the Fed projected that 2016's job growth will shake out to 1.6 percent — or about 193,000 new jobs.
Throughout 2016, experts said, the absence of widespread economic pain after the energy downturn was evidence that a more diverse Texas economy is better equipped to weather instability in a given industry.
But the oil plunge did take a toll, according to the Fed, which revises its annual job forecast every month based on new employment numbers. That 1.6 percent number was less than stellar — and only as high as it was, in large part, because of solid job gains later in the year.
Phillips said the 2017 estimates are very much subject to change. Another sharp drop in oil prices and a major slowdown in exports are the two biggest risks to job growth, he said.
Exports, which give the state's economy an annual boost of more than $200 billion, could be affected by any moves to restrict trade imposed by the incoming Trump administration.
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