Federal government, immigration among key drivers of job growth in Texas

I already posted about some of the less than stellar data regarding job growth in Texas. That’s a subject that has been — and will be — much in the news as long as Rick Perry’s run for the Republican nomination continues.

My post is here: Some numbers regarding job growth in Texas.

Over the last couple of days, there have been interesting analyses of the data in the Washington Post. Perry criticizes government while Texas job growth benefits from it includes this key info:

Between December 2007 and last June, private-sector employment in Texas declined by 0.6 percent, while public-sector jobs increased by 6.4 percent, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. Overall, government employees account for about one-sixth of the workers in Texas.


Analysts call the growth in government employment in Texas a natural consequence of the state’s surging population, which has grown by more than 20 percent in the past decade to 25.1 million. That increase has caused local governments and school systems to hire more teachers, budget analysts, compliance officers and police officers.

“A lot of growth has been happening in the public sector to respond to a growing population,” said Don Baylor Jr., a senior policy analyst with the Center for Public Policy Priorities, a research and advocacy group in Austin. “That has been an ongoing driver of our job growth.”


The Texas economy also has benefited from the huge sums spent by the federal government. The state is home to several large military installations as well as NASA, which helped Texas reap more than $227 billion in federal spending in 2009 — more than double its 2001 total, according to the Census Bureau.

The piece also notes the generally poor rankings that Texas has in basic quality-of-life measures:

More than a quarter of the state’s population lacks health-care coverage. Texas is last in the country when it comes to the number of adults with high school diplomas. It also 44th in the country in school spending per pupil, and its rate of income inequality is the ninth- highest in the country.

The Census Bureau says that 9.5 percent of the Texas workforce is paid at or below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, tying it with Mississippi for the largest share of minimum-wage workers in the country.

The piece also explores the tight regulations at the state level that prevented Texas from inflating as a housing bubble as many other states did.

Suzy Khimm in the WashPo asks: How much did illegal immigrants contribute to Texas’ economic boom? I have long argued that illegal immigration provides all sorts of intangible economic benefits that cannot easily be quantified and that are generally missed in estimates of the amount of strain those immigrants place on state services.

From the piece:

Illegal and legal immigrants make up about 20 percent of the state’s total workforce, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. And the Pew Hispanic Center estimates that 8 percent of Texas’ total workforce was made up of illegal immigrants as of 2008. [. . .]

In 2006, the Texas state comptroller, a Republican, released a study showing that illegal immigrants produced more in state revenues than they received in state services in the previous year: “Undocumented immigrants produced $1.58 billion in state revenues, which exceeded the $1.16 billion in state services they received.” (The study also notes that “local governments bore the burden of $1.44 billion in uncompensated health care costs and local law enforcement costs not paid for by the state,” without providing figures about local revenues that these immigrants generated.) The comptroller estimated, moreover, that the Texas workforce would decline by 6.3 percent without the illegal immigrant population, even accounting for new arrivals that would most likely come to replace them.

There seems to be a growing sense that the unwinding of federal stimulus spending and recent state government revenue shortfalls — and the attendant cuts in jobs — will put considerable strain on the Texas jobs picture. Texas is one of only three states that reached its post-recession maximum in July.

Both these pieces are highly recommended.