Houston Economy at a Glance July 2019

From Houston Economy at a Glance (July 2019 Publication of the Greater Houston Partnership)

  • The U.S. Census Bureau posted population estimates for U.S. metros in April. Metro Houston has a population of nearly 7.0 million, a gain of just over 1.0 million since ’10. The Bureau released estimates for cities in May. The city of Houston has a population of 2.3 million, a net gain of 232,000 since ’10.
  • All nine counties in the Houston metro area gained population over the past eight years. Harris County added the most residents, followed by Fort Bend, Montgomery and Brazoria. Fort Bend grew the fastest, followed by Montgomery and Waller Counties. Among all U.S. counties, Fort Bend ranked as the nation’s 10th fastest growing from ’10 to ’18, Montgomery ranked 18th, Waller 41st, Chambers 52nd and Brazoria 83rd.
    Metro Houston created 79,800 jobs, a 2.6 percent increase, in the 12 months ending May ’19, according to the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC). Employment now stands at 3,163,600, the highest point on record. At the current pace of growth, the region should top 3.2 million jobs by year’s end.
  • The recovery in the oil and gas industry began in earnest three years ago this summer. Crude prices began improving in March ’16, the rig count in May ’16, and bankruptcies plateaued in the second quarter of the year. But energy employment didn’t see an uptick until January ’17 and continues to struggle. From peak to trough, the sector cut nearly 93,000 jobs. While pipeline and liquid natural gas projects have helped engineering recoup all its losses, upstream and manufacturing have recovered only a fraction of theirs.
  • Foreign Trade
    Houston’s exports have grown from $80.0 billion in ’08 to $120.7 billion in ’18, according to the U.S. International Trade Administration.1 No other metro area has experienced such growth over the period.
  • Foreign Direct Investment
    The Partnership has tracked 659 deals where foreign-owned companies announced plans to establish or expand operations in Houston. The value of the investments was made public for only 315 of these deals, but the cumulative amount disclosed is significant—$33.2 billion. These investments originated from 36 countries and cover 63 industries across 11 broad sectors.

Houston Industrial Construction at All Time High

HOUSTON (Transwestern) – June 10, 2019 – Fueled by the rapidly growing e-commerce sector, increased activity at the Port of Houston, and the city’s continued high population growth, demand for industrial real estate product in Houston has kept vacancy rates low and pushed the construction pipeline to an all-time high of 21.2 million square feet across the metro. While industrial construction activity has been dominated by build-to-suit activity over the past few years, developers are modifying their strategy to get ahead of requirements with a wave of speculative construction. As a result, the current industrial construction pipeline is 74% speculative space, totaling 15.7 million square feet set to deliver over the next 18 months – an increase of 268% year over year.

Downtown Houston Market Report

DOWNTOWN HOUSTON (Central Houston) – May 30, 2019 – Downtown concluded the first quarter of 2019 with sound fundamentals, and a slew
of office leases, renovations, and new construction activity, thanks to improving industry trends.

Rebounding from its plunge at the end of last year, WTI crude increased steadily throughout the first quarter, settling at $61 per barrel at the end of March (a 40 percent increase over a 3-month period). Despite looming uncertainty as geopolitical tensions weigh on global and national demand outlook, the Downtown and Houston economy continue to experience robust labor market and economic growth, albeit lower than initially foretasted. Houston unemployment is at its lowest in two decades (3.7 percent in March 2019), supported by strong manufacturing employment.

Stable oil prices are likely to translate to increased production, but less so to energy sector job growth, due to the growing technological efficiencies in the industry. In the midst of this, the Downtown market is bustling, as developers and landlords continue to implement innovative offerings and experiences for employees, residents and visitors. Cranes continue to dot the Downtown skyline, as a plethora of new and redevelopment projects are underway in all of Downtown’s major sub-markets—office, multifamily, hospitality and retail.

Downtown’s Residential sub-market is thriving and continues to attract investment and a growing number of residents, given its track record as one of the fastest growing residential neighborhoods in the region. As the demand for Downtown units has increased, evidenced by an 86.8 percent occupancy rate this quarter, so has the supply. Hines has begun construction on Houston’s tallest residential tower—The Preston—slated for delivery in 2022. This is again indicative of the DLI initiative’s success in kick starting an organic response to what was evidently a huge demand for Downtown living. The sub-market has grown to close to 6,100 residential units, up from about 2,500 in 2013; Downtown now houses over 9,000 residents.

The Downtown Office market has been extremely active since the year began, with major lease deals, renovations, and new construction activity. Key fundamentals indicate that the Downtown’s office market delivered strong performance in the first quarter and continues to show signs of improvement. Between January and March alone, Downtown recorded close to 774,000-SF in leases,
close to 50 percent (375,581-SF) were renewals, reiterating tenant’s confidence in the sub-market; BG Group Place (811 Main) is 93.6 percent leased; most of the sublease space in One Shell Plaza (910 Louisiana) has been leased; 609 Main at Texas is over 80 percent leased, after securing several leases this quarter. Co-working trends are also contributing to absorption, with co-working and
innovation-related leases accounting for over 100,000-SF of leases in the first quarter alone. Overall vacancy however remains high 20.4 percent in Q1 2019, a slight increase from 19.7 percent in Q4 2018, all of which Class A buildings accounted for. This is underpinned by growing inventory from the two office towers under construction accompanied by footprint shrinkage.

Downtown’s Retail market is constantly evolving including the culinary scene which continues to grab local and national attention. Narrative around this year’s retail buzzword, ‘Food Halls,’ continues to focus on Downtown, as highlighted in CNN’s February publication, ”9 Great Reasons To Visit Houston In 2019.“ Complementing its growing national recognition, Downtown’s newest food hall, Finn Hall, placed 4th in the top ten winners for 2019 USA Today’s “10 Best Readers Choice Travel Awards’ Best New Food Hall”. However, Downtown’s Finn Hall in The Jones on Main, and its soon-to-be counterparts, Bravery Chef Hall in Hines’ Aris residential tower and Under-story at Skanska’s new office tower, Capitol Tower, play a bigger role than meeting the demand for ‘approachable’ culinary offerings; they are also making both the office and residential buildings they are housed in more attractive to tenants, as Downtown emerges as a true live-work-play destination. Downtown had five new retail deliveries in the first quarter; over 28 new retailers are coming soon or planned. (Bisnow, HBJ, Chronicle Bisnow, HBJ, Bisnow, RNR, Culturemap, RNR)

As with retail, Downtown’s Hospitality, cultural and entertainment sectors continue to receive national attention. In its February publication “9 Great Reasons To Visit Houston In 2019,” CNN not only points to Downtown as having most of the top travel attractions in Houston, but recommends Downtown as one of the three main neighborhoods of choice for accommodation, for travelers to have the best access to the city’s highlights. Brookfield’s C. Baldwin, Curio Collection by Hilton, the rebranded 354-room independent hotel (formerly DoubleTree Hotel), is on track for its grand-opening on October 10, and will formally adopt its new name on June 2. The renovated hotel will feature ballrooms named after influential Houston women, and a new signature Italian restaurant Rosalie, by celebrity chef, Chris Constantino. Hilton Americas-Houston Hotel, the city’s largest convention center hotel at 1600 Lamar, will be undergoing an extensive $37 million renovation. Led by Gensler, each of its 1,200+ rooms will receive $31,000 in upgrades, a new color and design scheme, new artwork from 11 local artists and in-suite technology. Construction will start in the second quarter and be completed in phases throughout the year to limit hotel disruption. Downtown’s Hotel Alessandra took the number-two spot on Interior Design magazine’s national best design list for “cool and captivating lobbies.” Part of the Valencia brand, Alessandra “pairs traditional glamour with modern sophistication.” (Culturemap)

Texas Home Sales Continue To Grow

AUSTIN (Texas Realtors) – May 7, 2019 – Texas home sales​ continued to
rise, and median price moderately increased during first quarter 2019, according to the 2019-Q1 Texas Quarterly Housing Report from Texas

​Last quarter, 70,827 homes were sold statewide, a 0.7 percent increase over the year. The median price increased 2.7 percent to $230,000.

Of all the homes sold in the first quarter in 2019, 32 percent were priced from $200,000 to $299,999, the highest share of sales among all
price-class distributions. Homes priced from $100,000 to $199,999
represented the second-highest share of sales with 30.5 percent.

Real Estate Center Chief Economist Dr. Jim Gaines said sales increased by around 1 percent ​​across the state during the first quarter with notable gains in sales volume in March in the major markets.

“The median price also continued to rise but at a substantially slower
rate,” he said. “Furthermore, listings finally showed signs of growth with a corresponding rise in months inventory, but it’s still a tight market

Active listings jumped 14 percent from a year ago to 104,620. Texas
homes spent an average of 68 days on the market.

Housing inventory in Texas also increased 0.4 months over the year from first quarter 2018 to 3.6 months of inventory. According to the Real Estate Center, a balanced market has between six​​ and 6.5 months of inventory.​​

Texas Economy Growing But Cooling

COLLEGE STATION – (The Real Estate Center Texas A & M) – April 29, 2019 – The Texas economy continues to grow faster than the U.S., but it has been cooling off the past six months.

According to the Real Estate Center’s latest Monthly Review of the Texas Economy, the state gained 271,000 nonagricultural jobs from March 2018 to March 2019, an annual growth rate of 2.2 percent, higher than the nation’s employment growth rate of 1.7 percent.

The nongovernment sector added 262,300 jobs, an annual growth rate of 2.5 percent, also more than the nation’s employment growth rate of 1.9 percent in the private sector.

Texas’ seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in March was 3.8 percent, lower than the 4 percent rate a year ago. The nation’s rate decreased from 4 to 3.8 percent.

All Texas industries except the information industry had more jobs in March 2019 than in March 2018. The mining and logging industry ranked first in job creation followed by construction; other services; manufacturing; leisure and hospitality; transportation, warehousing, and utilities; and education and health services.

All Texas metro areas except Longview had more jobs. Midland ranked first in job creation followed by Odessa, Dallas-Plano-Irving, Sherman-Denison, College Station-Bryan, Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, and McAllen-Edinburg-Mission.

The state’s actual unemployment rate was 3.5 percent. Midland had the lowest unemployment rate followed by Odessa, Amarillo, Austin-Round Rock, College Station-Bryan, and Sherman-Denison.

4 Million SF Of Industrial Underway in Southeast Houston

​​​​HOUSTON (NAI Partners) – March 18, 2019 -The Southeast submarket has four million sf of industrial space underway, one-third of the total industrial construction in the metro.

The submarket recently experienced a more than $50 billion petrochemical expansion that​​​ is positively affecting demand for industrial supply, particularly for plastics and logistics.

The largest projects under construction include:

Port of Houston facilities set a record for total tonnage at 35.7 million tons, which reflected an increase of 9 percent from 2017. It remains a leading port in the U.S., and development activity is expected to continue at an accelerated pace for the foreseeable future.

Houston New Home Prices Lead Texas In Gains

TEXAS (HomesUSA.com) – February 26, 2019 – The average new home price in Texas rose by nearly $1,500 to $358,880 in January, according to HomesUSA.com

The average price of a new home rose in Texas’ four largest markets in January, with Houston leading the gains, according to the the HomesUSA.com New Home Sales Index. Sales activity, meanwhile, fell slightly in Houston, mirroring the statewide trend.
Houston-area new home prices rose by $3,809 to an average of $361,231 in January, a gain of 1 percent from the prior month. San Antonio prices rose by $1,057, 0.4 percent, to $297,248. The average price in Austin rose by $195 to $368,931, while the Dallas average went up by $44 to $375,930.

The average new home price statewide rose by $1,446 to $358,880 in January, up 0.4 percent from $357,434 in December, according to the survey. The index tracks a 12-month rolling average of sales based on data from local Multiple Listing Services in Houston, North Texas, San Antonio and Austin.

Sales volume in the four largest markets was essentially flat in January compared December, with with each city experiencing a drop of six or fewer transactions.

“We’ve been on a record-breaking pace for new home sales for so long, it’s not surprising to see that the market appears to be leveling off,” HomesUSA.com owner Ben Caballero said in an announcement. “But we also are about to head into the spring sales season.”

HomesUSA.com lists and sells houses for more than 60 homebuilders in Texas.

Houston Office Market Has Positive Net Absorption

HOUSTON (NAI Partners) – February 25, 2019 – After peaking at 22 percent in 2Q 2018, local office vacancy fell to 21.1 percent this month, according to ​NAI Partners.
So far, year-to-date 2019 net absorption is in positive territory at 762,230 sf.

The metro created 108,300 jobs, a 3.5 percent increase, in the 12 months ending December 2018. The five sectors adding the most jobs in 2018 were:

  • construction (19,400);
  • administrative and support services (16,800);
  • durable goods manufacturing (15,500);
  • professional, scientific, and technical services (11,200); and
  • health care (11,100).

The city’s west side (Energy Corridor) is continuing to see positive forward movement, underscored by the sale of Eldridge Place, a three-building, 824,632-sf office complex purchased by Granite Properties for $78.4 million from TIER REIT.

Chevron, Exxon Mobil Sink Billions into Texas Refineries

HOUSTON (Connect Daily Texas) – February 1, 2019 – Two of the nation’s largest oil companies are doubling down on Texas, pouring billions of dollars into refineries.

Chevron USA Inc. has inked an agreement with Petrobras America Inc. to acquire Pasadena Refining Systems Inc. for $350 million. The deal includes all outstanding shares and equity interests, as well as the 192-acre refinery in Pasadena, TX, located on the Houston Ship Channel. The refinery (pictured above) marks Chevron’s first in the Lone Star State.

Meanwhile, Exxon Mobil announced it will begin construction on an expansion of its Beaumont refinery that will make the facility the largest refinery in the nation. The Irving, TX-based company plans to increase the refinery’s capacity by 250,000 barrels per day, or roughly 65%.

Exxon Mobil expects to create 1,850 jobs during construction of the expansion, and add 40 to 60 jobs in the area once it is complete in 2022. At that time, the refinery will be able to process more barrels of crude oil than any refinery in the United States.

“The Gulf Coast is a really good area for refining in general,” said Matthew Blair, head of refiners research at Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co. “It’s one of the most cost advantageous locations for refineries in the world.”

After 29 Months of Economic Expension Needle Moving Neutral

HOUSTON (Houston Chronicle) – January 15, 2019– A near-term forecast indicates continued overall economic growth in Houston but warns that manufacturing growth may slow over coming months.

The Houston Purchasing Manager’s Index reported that manufacturing activity in Houston expanded in December for the 15th consecutive month, and overall economic activity expanded for the 29th month.

The index registered at 53.3, down from 54.9 in November. Readings over 50 generally indicate expansion; readings below 50 show contraction.

The index’s readings for Houston’s employment and lead times, two of three underlying indicators tied to economic activity, showed continued strength. ​

The third indicator—the sales and new orders index—fell below neutral for the first time in 13 months.

The three-month forecast for the Houston index registered 49.8, down 3.3 points from its November reading of 53.1.

Weakening sales/new orders, production, and lead times, which are all directly tied to economic activity, were the primary drivers for the fall.

The institute projected continued strength during the next three months for health care and construction but expects manufacturing and wholesale trade to weaken.