Forecaster: Houston economy has recovered from downturn –

The Houston economy has largely recovered from the two-year oil downturn that began in 2014 and economic indicators suggest solid growth ahead for the region, according to analysis by a University of Houston economist.

The local economy, after struggling in recent years, is again adding jobs at a strong pace, supported by oil prices above $60 a barrel and a robust national expansion, said Bill Gilmer, an economist with the university’s Bauer College of Business.

“We’re back, Houston is fine, oil should stay around $65 per barrel, we’re in good shape,” Gilmer told business leaders at a luncheon in downtown Houston. “It’s a great turnaround after several years of suffering from no growth.”

The metropolitan economy has picked up speed since the end of last year, when tens of billions of dollars in federal aid and insurance payments flooded into the region to rebuild after Hurricane Harvey hit in August 2017. The Texas Workforce Commission has estimated that Houston has exceeded 120,000 new jobs over the past year, although many of the jobs were temporary jobs related to Harvey recovery.

Gilmer said the biggest plus for Houston’s recovery was a strong U.S. economy, which has created jobs for 97 consecutive months and pushed the unemployment rate to 3.7 percent, the lowest in almost 50 years. The local economy is now much more closely linked to the U.S. economy, Gilmer said, and as long as the U.S. economy performs well, so will the economy in Houston.

The U.S. economy, Gilmer said, remains strong by “virtually every economic measure and has strengthened significantly in recent months. The probability of recession remains near zero.”
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