Bryan-College Station’s economy has reversed a slight three-month slide, according to a local index that measures a number of economic factors and indicators.
The index also shared data showing heavy increases in local and through-traffic along Texas 6 from 2012 to 2017. Traffic on Texas 6 at the south end of College Station is comparable to through traffic between Huntsville and Madisonville on Interstate 45, according to the index.
The College Station-Bryan Business-Cycle Index, which is released monthly by the Private Enterprise Research Center (PERC) at Texas A&M, shows a “scant” economic increase of 0.06% for data from March through the end of April. The index has a two-month lag time.
“The unemployment rate decreased to 2.9% in College Station-Bryan for the month of April, or 0.1% lower than the March rate,” said Andy Rettenmaier, PERC’s associate executive director. “That matches our lowest unemployment rate.”
Dennis Jansen, executive director of PERC, said that a low unemployment rate indicates that the “labor market in the area is pretty tight.”
“Changes in the unemployment rate are a pretty important part of our business cycle indicator,” Jansen said. “When our unemployment rate declines, that’s a sign that the economy is growing.”
Jansen added that B-CS often has a lower unemployment rate than state and national numbers.
The index is built from four components: total nonfarm employment, wages, the unemployment rate and taxable sales. The Brazos Valley Economic Development Corporation sponsors the monthly index.
Jansen and Rettenmaier said the area’s real taxable sales grew 3.2% between March and April and are up 6.1% from this time last year. Real wages decreased by 0.4% from the third to the fourth quarter of 2018, but grew by 0.9% relative to the fourth quarter of 2017.
The College Station-Bryan metropolitan statistical area (MSA) is defined by the Census Bureau and includes Brazos, Robertson and Burleson counties.
In addition to analysis of its four regular metrics, the index also observes a different topic each month to look at growth trends in the metro area. The latest report included Texas Department of Transportation data of annual average daily traffic (AADT) on Texas 6 at the north end of Bryan as well as at the south end of College Station. It also included data from Texas 6 through the middle of town.
The AADT counts traffic moving in both directions on the highway and on the frontage roads.
Rettenmaier and Jansen, who are also economics professors at Texas A&M, said the rationale for looking at the traffic along Texas 6 is to get a feel for how the area might be progressing both as a destination and as a more prominent thoroughfare.
At the north end of Bryan, the AADT was 24,484 vehicles in 2017, down from 32,184 in 2016 but up 26% overall since 2012. At the south end of College Station, the AADT was 35,444 in 2017, up from 33,747 the previous year — a rise of 36% since 2012.
Jansen said that PERC also looked at AADT traffic between Madisonville and Huntsville on Interstate 45, which, at about 35,000 vehicles per day, is about equal to traffic volume at the south end of College Station.
Traffic in the middle of town proved denser, with an average annual daily traffic of 92,874 vehicles in 2017, up from 77,124 in 2016. That local measure of traffic has grown by 55% since 2012.
For comparison, the population in the College Station-Bryan MSA grew about 10.2% from 2012 to 2017.
“Here we see some growth in transportation to or from the city, from the north or the south,” Jansen said. “But it’s not anywhere near the growth in traffic that we see within the city itself.”
The index also shared airport traffic data from a number of Texas airports. It shared the number of enplanements, or passenger boardings, from each airport in the state.
With just shy of 32 million enplanements in 2017, Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) recorded the most boardings, followed by George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) with 19.6 million boardings.
College Station’s Easterwood Field recorded 73,430 enplanements in 2017, more than Waco’s (58,888 enplanements) but much less than Lubbock’s Preston Smith International (460,236) or Amarillo’s Rick Husband International (334,563).
“We are in close proximity to some pretty big airports, and that really affects the travel that goes through Easterwood Airport compared to some other places,” Rettenmaier said.
According to a separate report, the Texas A&M Real Estate Center’s Monthly Review of the Texas Economy, Texas gained 286,300 nonagricultural jobs from May 2018 to May 2019, good for an annual growth rate of 2.3%. The national employment growth rate, according to the Real Estate Center report, is 1.6%.
Texas’ seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in May 2019 was 3.5%, according to the Real Estate Center report. The report indicated that every Texas metropolitan area, save for Longview and Abilene, had more jobs in May 2019 than in May 2018.
The report had Bryan-College Station ranked 10th in the state on year-over-year job creation. The eastern half of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex ranked first.