Greater Houston Partnership talks Houston economic recovery

An executive from the Greater Houston Partnership spoke with Houston Northwest Chamber of Commerce members about the struggle for economic recovery, with forces pulling the economy both in and out of the recession.

Patrick Jankowski, senior vice president of the group, said Thursday the struggle was like a tug of war, with some factors pulling Houston’s economy into recovery, and others keeping the economy from progressing and bringing back jobs.

Some positives include consumer sentiment at its highest level since March; single-family home sales and car sales are back up, according to data from the US Census Bureau and the US Bureau of Economic Analysis. Jankowski said an increase in automobile sales was a short-term indicator of consumer confidence, while home sales were a long-term indicator of consumer confidence.

Jankowski also said retail sales overall have risen since the pandemic first hit in March and April, according to census data, like how sales go up around hurricane season.

“Think back about after Harvey hit the region and how regional sales surged because people were having to replace everything that was lost,” Jankowski said. “People weren’t able to shop early on in the pandemic, so now you’re starting to see this increase in retail sales.”

There are still some factors holding back economic recovery, he said, including the still present risk of COVID-119, turmoil in the stock market, high unemployment claims and the lack of a new economic stimulus package.

At the worst part of the great recession in 2009, there were about 600,000 unemployment claims weekly, he said, while the highest the U.S. has seen during the pandemic was 7 million weekly, but that has gone down to about 800,000 weekly according to data from the US Employment and Training Administration.

“What we need to do to get that extra boost is some form of a stimulus package,” he said. “One is a stimulus package to help the economy grow, the other is we need a benefits package because there are a lot of people out there not earning a paycheck that need the stimulus just to get by.”

Houston has done better than many other cities like New York, he said, recovering about 92.5% of the jobs lost in March and April.

“We’re pretty much the middle of the pack,” he said, in terms of cities recovering from unemployment. “Who’d ever thought a Houstonian, or a Texan would be happy with being average.”

The oil and gas industry is holding the city back form more recovery, having lost about 350,200 jobs in March and April, with 236,400 still needing to be recouped, he said. Exxon Mobil dropped from the Dow Jones Industrial average after nearly a century.

“Big oil just isn’t as big as it once was in the U.S. or in Houston,” Jankowski said.

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