The Bryan-College Station economy has declined slightly following a 10-month growth streak, according to the latest economic index produced by the Texas A&M Private Enterprise Research Center.
The center released its monthly area Business Cycle Index last week. Dennis Jansen, the center’s executive director, and associate executive director Andy Rettenmaier said that though the local unemployment rate remains low at 2.7%, modest decreases in nonfarm employment and taxable sales contributed to the slight economic dip.
Jansen said that though nonfarm employment decreased by 0.2% in December, it is up 3.4% from its December 2018 level. Additionally, Rettenmaier said, taxable sales, which the index seasonally adjusts due to the holiday season, went down by 1% in December, though that total went up 3.2% compared to the previous year.
“In the broader picture, sales were up for the year. I guess the issue is whether it’s a one-month decline in sales and in the next month or two, sales will be back on their upward trajectory or not,” Jansen said. “I’d say the same thing about nonfarm employment. It decreased very slightly, and it’s up for the year. I don’t see any reason to panic, but the fact is the economy has slowed down and that growth is slightly negative in the last month.”
Rettenmaier said that the index indicates the local economy has grown by 15.4% over the past 12 months.
The national unemployment rate remained constant at 3.5%; the Texas unemployment rate increased from 3.4% to 3.5%.
The Brazos Valley Economic Development Corp. sponsors the index, which runs with a lag time of approximately two months — meaning the figures are accurate as of Dec. 31.
The Bryan-College Station metro statistical area, as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau, includes Brazos, Robertson and Burleson counties.
In addition to its monthly analysis of the area’s economy, PERC’s index also provides a snapshot of a different aspect of the economy each month. The latest index shared data about Bryan-College Station hotels, including annual hotel revenue for the past decade.
Rettenmaier said that in January 2010, there were just over 3,400 hotel rooms in the area; there were 6,191 local rooms as of December 2019. From the end of 2014 to the close of 2019, the number of rooms increased by 2,416, or 64%, he said.
“We’ve seen a continued rise in the number of rooms available,” Rettenmaier said. Jansen said that the number of hotel rooms has risen faster than has spending on hotel rooms.
For the past two years, approximately 29% of annual hotel revenue has come in September, October and November, the three months that encompass football season. In 2010, that number was 28.1%; football season revenue climbed to 31.2% of all hotel revenue in 2017.
The highest total hotel amount for a single month was $13.1 million in October 2019. Last year’s total for annual hotel receipts was $114.1 million, or 0.2% higher than the total receipts for 2018.
“We’ve had a bit of a flattening over the last year in revenues,” Rettenmaier said. He noted that while the number of hotel rooms stayed close to constant from 2012 to the end of 2014, total annual revenue in the time frame jumped from $63.4 million in 2012 to $97 million in 2014. Football season revenue was $18.4 million in 2012 and $28.1 million in 2014.
“Those other months matter quite a bit. It’s not just the football season but also those other months that contribute to the revenues that come in to the hotels here in town,” Rettenmaier said.