The Bryan-College Station economy declined slightly in strength early in 2019, according to an index that measures a number of economic factors.
Dennis Jansen, executive director of the Private Enterprise Research Center at Texas A&M, said Wednesday afternoon that “alarm bells are not going off” due to the report, because of the economy’s recent strength.
“What we’re saying is [the] local economy is slowing, but it’s slowing from a pretty good place,” Jansen said in a telephone interview. “What’s going on is a reflection of slowing economic activity.”
The January unemployment rate in Bryan-College Station stood at 3.1 percent and has risen for two consecutive months, according to the report.
“The unemployment rate is still quite low, but it did move in the direction that would indicate a slowing of the growth rate,” said Andy Rettenmaier, the center’s executive associate director.
Overall, the Business Cycle Index decreased at an annualized rate of negative-1 percent between December 2018 and January 2019.
Real taxable sales declined by 0.5 percent in January 2019, Jansen said, but were 4.6 percent higher than sales in January 2018.
Real wages decreased by 0.3 percent from the second to the third quarter of 2018 but grew by 3.1 percent relative to the third quarter of 2017.
“It’s not decreasing much, but it’s flatlining,” Jansen said of the real wage figure.
Rettenmaier said Wednesday that some other areas in Texas have experienced a recent decline. The slowing growth at the national and state level aligns with indexes produced by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas for a handful of other Texas metropolitan areas.
The index runs with a two-month lag time, according to the report. The College Station-Bryan Business-Cycle Index, released monthly by Texas A&M University’s PERC, attempts to reflect the state of the economy.
The local unemployment rate remains well below the rate for Texas and for the U.S. Despite the recent increases, according to Jansen and Rettenmaier, it continues to be low by historical standards.
The rate in Texas rose from 3.7 to 3.8 percent between December 2018 and January 2019, while the national rate rose for the second month in a row to the current rate of 4 percent.
In addition to its regular reports on unemployment and overall economic strength, the report also provides insight on a different economic topic each month. For this month’s report, the center looked at the growth in Texas A&M University’s enrollment, as well as the educational profile of the local population as compared to similar metro areas.
According to the report, Bryan-College Station has a higher share of its population with a graduate or professional degree than either Waco and Lubbock. The share of the B-CS population with a college degree or above is higher than the share in Texas and in the U.S. and is the same as the share in Auburn-Opelika.
Sixteen percent of B-CS residents have graduate or professional degrees, while 35 percent of area residents have at least a bachelor’s degree, according to the report. Twenty-nine percent of Texans have college degrees, as do 31 percent of Americans.