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San Antonio Economic Indicators

Economic Indicators
January 26, 2018

The San Antonio economy expanded at a robust pace in December. The San Antonio Business-Cycle Index grew at its fastest pace since early 2015, as jobs increased at a strong clip, and the area’s unemployment dipped below the state’s low rate.

Business-Cycle Index

The San Antonio Business-Cycle Index expanded at a 6.2 percent annualized rate in December, up from November’s 5.9 percent (Chart 1). December annualized job growth surged by 7.8 percent, while the unemployment rate ticked down slightly. Over 2017, growth in the index averaged 4.6 percent, above the area’s long-term average.

Chart 1

Labor Market

Unemployment Rate Ticks Down

The San Antonio unemployment rate dipped slightly to 3.8 percent in December after rising to a revised 3.9 percent in November (Chart 2). The state rate picked up slightly to 3.9 percent, while the U.S. rate held steady at 4.1 percent. The San Antonio labor force grew at a sharp 3.4 percent last year, well above Texas’ 1.4 percent pace and the fastest of any of the state’s major metros.

Chart 2

Construction and Leisure and Hospitality Jobs Surge

San Antonio jobs increased an annualized 5.2 percent over the fourth quarter last year (Chart 3). Growth was broad based across industries, with only manufacturing seeing significant employment declines despite being up modestly for the year overall. Construction employment surged, with very strong growth in jobs for construction of buildings and specialty-trade contractors. Leisure and hospitality grew at its strongest quarterly pace since the mid-1990s. Professional and business services also finished the year at an accelerated pace.

Chart 3

Biotechnology Employment Outpaces Overall Employment Growth

Biotechnology and life sciences employment in San Antonio picked up at a 3.5 percent annualized pace in second quarter 2017, well above the 1.1 percent pace for broader metro employment over the same period (Chart 4). This industry, which includes pharmaceuticals and medical equipment manufacturing, scientific research and development, and other technical consulting services, has grown at an average annual rate of 2.9 percent since 2006—faster than the 2.2 percent average for total employment. While detailed data are not available beyond the second quarter, broader industry data suggest the industry grew at a 5.8 percent rate in the second half of last year.

Chart 4

Housing Market

The number of permits for new single-family home construction in San Antonio remained high over the three months through November (Chart 5). Over the course of 2017, permits increased 17 percent, compared with 11 percent for Texas overall. In December, the San Antonio median sales price reached an all-time high of $219,866, and existing-home sales remained strong.

Chart 5

San Antonio Stocks

Stock prices of companies with a significant presence in San Antonio picked up by 5.3 percent from Dec. 26 to Jan. 19, in line with the S&P 500, which rose by 4.8 percent (Chart 6). Gains were broad based across industries but continued to be led by oil and gas exploration, and pipeline and refining companies. Most financial firms and manufacturers also saw strong increases in their stock prices. Food services and communications companies saw mixed outcomes.

Chart 6

NOTE: Data may not match previously published numbers due to revisions.

About San Antonio Economic Indicators

Questions can be addressed to Christopher Slijk at San Antonio Economic Indicators is published every month on the Thursday after state and metro employment data are released.