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Those unemployment blues

There’s a new kid on the Texas Political Bloggers block, a joint effort from Austin called the Burnt Orange Report. They have a post about Texas’s depressing unemployment rate, currently at 6.5%, or 6.7% if you adjust for the season. Austin itself is doing better, but the tech industry is still on its knees and average wages dropped by $24 per week between Q1 2001 and Q1 2002.

Over here in Houston, our famed optimism is taking it on the chin from the recent hard times:

A quarter of those interviewed named the economy and poverty as the greatest problems facing Houston-area residents, compared to 8 percent who chose these issues three years ago. And just 39 percent this year rated local job prospects as excellent or good — a sharp decline from last year’s 52 percent and the lowest figure since 27 percent provided this assessment in 1993.

“This year, it seems clear that the generalized optimism about the future — so typical of Houstonians — is now also being affected by the deepening insecurities” about the economy, said Stephen Klineberg, the Rice University sociology professor who has directed the annual survey since 1982.

He said this year’s findings suggest that growing economic worries may no longer be merely short-term concerns.

For example, the proportion who said the United States is headed for better times in the next few years dropped from 44 percent in 2002 to 37 percent this year. And on a question that Klineberg said taps into “the vaunted Houston ideology” and its “can-do spirit,” 82 percent agreed that Houstonians who work hard eventually will succeed. Last year, 88 percent agreed with this premise.

For all the talk about how traffic problems are a high priority for Houston voters, I bet this will be a big campaign issue in the upcoming mayoral race. Too bad, since I think the mayor will have far greater influence over Metro’s proposals than over the local economy, not that that will stop anyone from promising large tax giveaways in an effort to attract businesses to relocate here.

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  1. Kevin Whited says:

    I’m starting to feel bad for whatever SOB wins the mayor’s job in Houston. Reading this only made it worse.

  2. Why is 6.7% depressing? I’m not happy with 6.7% and expect it to come down in the future, but it’s one of the least bad unemployment figures following a downturn I can recall over the past 30 years. True that as recently as two years ago the rate was 4.4%, but it was higher than 6.7% for most of 1991-1994, 1985-1989 and 1982-1983. The last time it was in the 4s was in the 70s.

    Overall, 6.7% seems fairly mild and isn’t far from average for 1970 to the present (I eyeballed that estimation; number crunching may prove me off).

    Texas Unemployment Rate; Monthly SA — 1970 to present.