Dr. James Owen, Midwestern State University
Local economic activity during December allowed our trade area to conclude 2019 with a favorable performance record in most sectors. Employment statistics have been mostly upbeat for the entire year including the December estimates.
The energy sector continues to search for stability, although oil prices seem to be on an uptrend over the past few months.
Local job numbers seem to have improved in an orderly, but not spectacular, fashion during 2019. Since the beginning of the year, local job numbers have increased by nearly 500 or 0.7 percent.
An impressive aspect of this estimate is that it has exhibited a mostly steady and sustained record. With some interesting prospects as we begin 2020, we may see continued improvement. Our unemployment rate for December continues at 2.9 percent, which is a record or at least near-record low compared to the past several years.
The local construction sector has exhibited some challenges during the year but concluded with an improvement in the number of new home permits issued. The 90 new permits issued during 2019 is 20 percent higher compared to those issued during 2018.
Potentially we will see this number of new permits approach the 100 level during 2020. Past years that have been quite favorable in an economic performance context, new home permits issued have typically exceeded 100 per year.
Comparisons between 2018 and 2019 with respect to the estimated dollar value for all building permits issued have been sort of challenging. During 2018, there seem to have been a rather high dollar estimate while the estimate for permits issued during 2019 are nearly nine percent lower.
For the 2019 calendar year, total tax receipts accruing to Wichita Falls are higher by 3.7 percent.
While local economic performance has been favorable during 2019, the Wichita Falls Economic Index for December remains at 107.9, constant with the months since August.
Presuming the record for 2019 continues into 2020, we may enjoy an index improvement as we work through the first quarter.