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Economic Indicators

"Economic Indicators of the College Station-Bryan MSA" and the College Station-Bryan Business-Cycle Index contained within are products of the Texas A&M Private Enterprise Research Center. It is sponsored by the Brazos Valley Economic Development Corporation. Previous editions are linked at the bottom of this page.
 
Founded in 1977 through the generosity of former students, corporations and foundations, PERC pursues a dual mission of supporting academic research at Texas A&M University and developing market-oriented solutions to public policy problems.
 


Economic Indicators of the
College Station-Bryan MSA
February 2021 Edition

HIGHLIGHTS

  • The Business-Cycle Index increased by 1.8% from November to December 2020.
  • The local unemployment rate decreased to 5.4% in December from 5.9% in November and remained the second-lowest rate among Texas metros.
  • Local nonfarm employment increased slightly by 1% in December and is 3.6% lower than it was in December 2019.
  • Local real taxable sales increased 1.1% from November to December but were 4.3% lower than the same month last year.
 

THE COLLEGE STATION-BRYAN BUSINESS-CYCLE INDEX

After a month of contraction in November, the College Station-Bryan Business-Cycle Index increased to 214 in December, as seen in Figure 1. The increase resulted from a decrease in the unemployment rate in addition to slight increases in both nonfarm employment and inflation adjusted taxable sales. The index has basically been in a holding pattern since September 2020.
 
 
 
 

THE COLLEGE STATION-BRYAN BUSINESS-CYCLE

After contracting in November, the CSB Business-Cycle rose 1.8% between November and December. The local unemployment rate decreased from 5.9% in November to 5.4% in December. Nonfarm employment showed an increase of 1% from 119,000 workers in November to 120,100 in December. The third monthly indicator used in estimating the business-cycle, inflation adjusted taxable sales, increased 1.1% between November and December. Quarterly wages, the final variable used to estimate the business-cycle will be updated March 9th with 2020 quarter 3 data.
 
 
 
 

UNEMPLOYMENT RATES

Figure 3 shows the unemployment rates for College Station-Bryan, Texas, and the U.S. from January 2008 to December 2020. The unemployment rate in College Station-Bryan and in Texas both decreased in December. As mentioned, the local unemployment rate decreased to 5.4% in December from 5.9% in November. The state rate decreased from 8.1% in October to 7.2% in November. The national rate is available up to January 2021 and decreased to 6.3% from 6.7% the previous month. The state and metropolitan area unemployment rates for January 2021 will be released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on March 15 and 19, respectively.
 
 
 
 

FOCUS ON THE COLLEGE STATION-BRYAN MSA AND RECENT ECONOMIC DATA

This month we present the unemployment rates in the Texas MSAs for December and then three weekly series: unemployment insurance claims in Texas metro areas, Covid-19 cases in selected metro areas in Texas, and the Mobility and Engagement Index developed by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.
 

TEXAS MSA UNEMPLOYMENT RATES

Figure 4 depicts all Texas MSA unemployment rates for December 2020. The College Station-Bryan MSA’s rate of 5.4% in December was second-lowest in the state and for the first time tied with Austin-Round Rock, with Amarillo having the lowest rate at 5.2%. Odessa, McAllen-Edinburg-Mission and Beaumont-Port Arthur had the three highest December rates at 11.7%, 11.5%, and 11.2%, respectively. Austin-Round Rock had the lowest unemployment rate among the four largest MSAs at 5.4%, Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington’s rate was 6.7%, San Antonio-New Braunfels also recorded a rate of 6.7% and Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land again had the highest rate in this group at 8.3%. For comparison, the state unemployment rate was 7.2%.
 
 
 
 

LOCAL UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE CLAIMS

Figure 5 depicts weekly unemployment insurance claims in College Station-Bryan and the MSAs constituting the “Texas triangle” as a share of each MSA’s nonfarm employment in February 2020, before Covid-19 pandemic policies came into effect. The peak number of unemployment insurance claims filed occurred in the week ending on March 28 in the Fort Worth, San Antonio, and Austin MSAs, reaching 2.5%, 2.3%, and 2.1%, respectively, of February 2020’s nonfarm employment. Houston, Dallas, and College Station-Bryan MSAs reached their record high unemployment insurance claims filed the week ending on April 4, with 2.4%, 2%, and 1.5% of February 2020’s employment, respectively. Since then, claims steadily decreased across all MSAs, with a notable increase for the week ending July 4. Since the week ending December 26, 2020, unemployment insurance claims have increased across the state, but with a slight decline for most MSAs for the week ending on January 30.
 
 
 
 

WEEKLY COVID-19 CASES

Figure 6 depicts new confirmed Covid-19 cases in select Texas metropolitan areas, as a share of the local population based on data from the Texas Department of State Health Services. Each series indicates two distinct peaks in new Covid-19 cases, one in the summer and a larger spike this winter. Locally, the summer spike occurred for the week ending on July 3 when new, confirmed cases reached 0.29% of the population. (Our local new case count includes cases in Brazos, Burleson, and Robertson Counties.) The winter peak occurred during the week ending on February 5 when cases reached 0.48% of the population. The local area also had a third, unique peak that occurred soon after the start of the Fall semester. San Antonio-New Braunfels had the highest summer peak when new cases reached 0.38% of the population for the week ending on July 17, while Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington had the highest winter peak at 0.57% of the population for the week ending on January 15. The general decline in recent weeks across the state coincides with the recent decline in cases nationally.
 
 
 
 

MOBILITY AND ENGAGEMENT INDEX BY THE FEDERAL RESERVE BANK OF DALLAS

The Dallas Fed’s Mobility and Engagement Index (MEI) uses mobile device data to analyze people’s geographic movements, time spent at home and away from home, as well as the distance of trips to create a measure that tracks a population’s activity. Figure 7 depicts this weekly measure of mobility by selected Texas MSAs. The index is scaled by the Dallas Fed so that the national average in January and February of 2020 equals zero and -100 for the second week of April (Atkinson et al., 2020). As seen in the figure below, in terms of leaving home and taking trips, College Station-Bryan residents have been the most active during the pandemic relative to residents in other Texas metropolitan areas. Movements in 2020 peaked the week of March 14 and December 19 in the local area. The first date corresponds with spring break and the second corresponds with the week prior to Christmas when local residents travel at higher rates than residents statewide. With one of the consistently lowest weekly MEI measures among the largest Texas MSAs, residents in Austin-Round Rock have been the most likely to “stay put” since March 2020.
 
 
 
 
These three higher frequency series indicate that unemployment insurance claims have increased modestly during the first six weeks of 2021, that Covid-19 cases have declined from their winter peak and that mobility remains well below pre-pandemic levels. Once the MSA level unemployment rates for January are released, we will know whether the number of new unemployment claimants outweighed the number of workers who found work or exited the workforce. The declining number of Covid-19 cases are encouraging. The mobility indexes will only return to their pre-pandemic levels if and when workers resume computing to and from work.
 
 

NOTES AND LINKS

The extent of the College Station-Bryan MSA is defined by the Census Bureau and includes Brazos, Burleson, and Robertson counties. The Business-Cycle Index is re-estimated each month using the most recent data for the four economic variables included in the model: the unemployment rate, nonfarm employment, real wages, and real taxable sales. The real wage series is released on a quarterly basis and the other three are released monthly. The underlying data series are subject to revision. With new monthly data and revisions of past data, each month the Index and the Business-Cycle will differ from previous estimates.
 
For more details about the CSB Business-Cycle Index see: Methodology for Constructing an Economic Index for the College Station-Bryan Metropolitan Statistical Area. 
 

DATA SOURCES

County Level New Confirmed Covid-19 Cases
Texas Department of State Health Services, New Confirmed Cases over Time by County, https://dshs.texas.gov/coronavirus/AdditionalData.aspx
County Level Unemployment Insurance Claims
Texas Workforce Commission, weekly claims by county, https://www.twc.texas.gov/news/unemployment-claims-numbers#claimsByCounty
Inflation
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers: All Items [CPIAUCSL], retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/CPIAUCSL. Wages and Taxable Sales are converted to real dollars (inflation-adjusted) using the CPI-U.
Mobility and Engagement Index
Atkinson, Tyler; Dolmas, Jim; Koch, Christoffer; Koenig, Evan; Mertens, Karel; Murphy, Anthony; and Kei-Mu Yi. Mobility and Engagement Following the SARS-Cov-2 Outbreak; Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, June 2020, https://doi.org/10.24149/wp2014 for methods & https://www.dallasfed.org/research/mei.aspx for data.
Nonfarm Employment 
Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, Texas Workforce Commission, and Bureau of Labor Statistics, Total Nonfarm Payroll Employment for Texas Metropolitan Statistical Areas, two-step Seasonally Adjusted, retrieved from Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. https://www.dallasfed.org/research/econdata/brysa.aspx
Taxable Sales (Sales and Use Tax Allocation)
Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, Allocation Payment Detail, Current Period Collections. Data available through Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts: https://mycpa.cpa.state.tx.us/allocation/AllocDetail. Historical data prior to 2016 from Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts. Seasonal Adjustment by Private Enterprise Research Center.
Unemployment Rate
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Unemployment by Metropolitan Area, Seasonally Adjusted, Local Area Unemployment Statistics, retrieved from Bureau of Labor Statistics, https://www.bls.gov/lau/metrossa.htm
Wages
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Total Quarterly Wages in College Station-Bryan, TX (MSA), retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/cew/datatoc.htm. Quarterly files by area. Seasonal Adjustment by Private Enterprise Research Center.
 
 

 

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