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Monthly index: Bryan-College Station jobless rate falls to record low 2.8%

Monthly index: Bryan-College Station jobless rate falls to record low 2.8%

Area numbers benefit from how college students are counted

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The unemployment rate in the Bryan-College Station metro area has reached an all-time low at 2.8%, according to a locally produced index that measures a number of economic factors and indicators.

The College Station-Bryan Business-Cycle Index, which is released monthly by the Private Enterprise Research Center at Texas A&M, grew by 0.47% between April and May, a robust annualized rate of 5.8%. The index has a lag time of about two months.

The monthly report also shared data suggesting that the B-CS metro area has a lower percentage of residents 65 or older than any other large metropolitan area in the state.

The drop in unemployment and accompanying growth in total nonfarm offset a 3.9% dip in real taxable sales from April to May, according to Dennis Jansen, executive director of the Private Enterprise Research Center.

“The economy continues to do well,” Jansen said. “The unemployment rate and the business cycle index reflect that.”

The unemployment rate in Texas is 3.5% and is 3.6% nationally. Jansen said the large presence of college students in the area contributes to the local rate usually being lower than state and national rates because working students add to the labor force, but nonworking, full-time students do not count against unemployment figures. 

“Students either help you reduce the unemployment rate, or they’re not in the labor force because their job is to be a student full time,” Jansen said. 

The index, which is sponsored by the Brazos Valley Economic Development Corporation, is built from four components: total nonfarm employment, wages, the unemployment rate and taxable sales.

The College Station-Bryan metropolitan statistical area is defined by the Census Bureau and includes Brazos, Robertson and Burleson counties. 

Andy Rettenmaier, the research center’s associate executive director, said that the center’s model puts more emphasis on unemployment rate and nonfarm employment totals than on real taxable sales — which dipped by nearly 4% from April to May — when estimating the local economy’s strength.

“Even though it was lower, its effect was, in essence, swamped by the positive movements in the unemployment rate moving down and the nonfarm employment rate increasing,” Rettenmaier said of the dip in real taxable sales.

Rettenmaier also said that data on wages is released quarterly and not monthly, and that upcoming findings on wages in the area may shift their model’s findings.

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 area. The latest report included a look at metrics related to local retirees along with comparisons to other metro areas in Texas. 

One data set shared information about average Social Security benefits received by retired workers in each Texas county. 

The average benefit per retired worker in Brazos County was $17,538, placing Brazos County in the top fifth of all counties in Texas. Additionally, the local average benefits received by retirees grew by 25.6% from 1999 to 2017, a considerably faster rate than state or national growth figures. 

The report also included data reporting that 10.6% of the population in Bryan-College Station is 65 or older, lowest in the state among larger metro areas. In the Waco area, 14.6% of residents are 65 or older, and 11.1% of Houston metro area residents are 65 or older. The national average is 16%.

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