Friday, March 27, 2009

Rick vs. Kay: the Texas economy...

Rick has staked a lot of his reputation on the Texas economy, which we found out today is not going so hot right now. Texas lost tens of thousands of jobs in February, with an unemployment rate creeping up to 6.5% (link).

Kay, wise enough to know that talking about how crappy the Texas economy is will not be a winning campaign communications strategy, has tried to take the economy out of the equation entirely and has said that the Texas economy is better than the rest of the country because we have a lot of airports and good weather (link).

Texas is expected to lose as many as 300 thousand jobs this year, which would send the state unemployment rate to above 8%. All of that is an exercise in crystal ball gazing, however. Nobody really knows what will happen, especially me. I won't try to be an expert and lead you astray. I'll tell you when I know what's up, and I will tell you when I have no clue. That's my policy on Rick vs. Kay. There is nothing worse than some amateur pretending to be an expert on every little thing.

What I do know is that Texas has an unemployment rate of 6.5%, up about 2 points in the past year or so. The rate for the country is 8.1%. Texas therefore has a rate 1.6% better than the nation (someone always check my math... please... thank you!).

According to Business Week there are big differences around the state (link). Excerpt follows:

Following are the preliminary February jobless rates for local areas in Texas, with revised January numbers in parentheses. The local figures are not seasonally adjusted.

Abilene 5.0 (5.1)

Amarillo 4.5 (4.6)

Austin-Round Rock 6.3 (6.4)

Beaumont-Port Arthur 8.5 (8.8)

Brownsville-Harlingen 9.3 (9.5)

College Station-Bryan 4.8 (5.1)

Corpus Christi 6.0 (6.1)

Dallas-Plano-Irving 7.0 (7.1)

El Paso 8.2 (8.3)

Fort Worth-Arlington 6.9 (7.0)

Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown 6.4 (6.5)

Killeen-Temple-Fort Hood 6.1 (6.5)

Laredo 7.4 (7.3)

Longview 6.0 (5.8)

Lubbock 4.5 (4.7)

McAllen-Edinburg-Mission 9.6 (10.1)

Midland 3.9 (3.8)

Odessa 5.3 (4.9)

San Angelo 5.4 (5.7)

San Antonio 6.0 (6.3)

Sherman-Denison 7.1 (7.4)

Texarkana 5.7 (5.8)

Tyler 6.6 (6.8)

Victoria 5.9 (5.9)

Waco 5.8 (5.9)

Wichita Falls 6.7 (6.8)

Look at West Texas and the panhandle... Midland, Abilene, Amarillo, and Lubbock all have very low unemployment, well below the national average or even the Texas average. South Texas seems to have higher unemployment than the national average.

Another thing to think about to keep the Texas economy in perspective is that Michigan now has a 12% unemployment rate, South Carolina's is 11%, Oregon's is 10.8%, North Carolina's is 10.7%, Rhode Island's is 10.5%, California's is also 10.5%, Nevada's is 10.1%, and there are several other states with rates above 9%.

Even other states in the south have much higher unemployment than Texas. Georgia's is 9.3%, Tennesee's is 9.1%, Mississippi's is 9.1%, and Alabama's is 8.4%.

Comparing Texas to other big states, Florida's is 9.4%, Illinois' is 8.6%, Washington's is 8.4%, and California's again is 10.5%, New York's is 7.8%, and Virginia's (which is benefiting a lot from the growth of the federal government in northern Virginia) is 6.6%.

The source for all of these numbers is the Bureau of Labor Statistics (link).

These numbers are just numbers, but I think it is fair to say that Texas is still avoiding the worst of this economy and is doing better than a lot of other states. I know two people I went to school with who are moving to Texas for new jobs from other states on both coasts.

I am also on the side that says the economy is not accidental. Government policies do a lot to stifle the economy, and in Texas, Republicans have done a better than average job of restraining government, in turn protecting the economy from being stifled.

I doubt Rick's people are sitting around rejoicing that Texas only has a 6.5% unemployment rate, nor are Kay's people rejoicing that Texas' rate has gone up by 2 points in the past year, but I still think stewardship of the economy will be a big issue in March 2010. Will Rick be able to convince people that he is even partially responsible for Texas not sucking as much as the rest of the country? Will Kay be able to convince people that the economy is really just about luck, geography, and weather?

That's what Rick vs. Kay is here for. Stick around, and keep sending me tips in the comments section, on Twitter, or by email at

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Hey now, campaign characters. Be nice. I know a lot of you on both sides, so I don't want any overly foul language, personal attacks on anyone other than the candidates themselves, or other party fouls. I will moderate the heck out of you if you start breaking the bounds of civility.