REGION: South Texas | Areas across South Texas
METRO AREA: Brownsville-Harlingen MSA | Corpus Christi MSA | Laredo MSA | McAllen-Edinburg-Mission MSA | San Antonio-New Braunfels MSA
COUNTY: Aransas | Atascosa | Bee | Bexar | Brooks | Calhoun | Cameron | DeWitt | Dimmit | Duval | Frio | Goliad | Gonzales | Guadalupe | Hidalgo | Jackson | Jim Hogg | Jim Wells | Karnes | Kenedy | Kinney | Kleberg | La Salle | Lavaca | Live Oak | Matagorda | Maverick | McMullen | Medina | Nueces | Refugio | San Patricio | Starr | Uvalde | Victoria | Webb | Wharton | Willacy | Wilson | Zapata | Zavala

Texas! Our South Texas!

The Aqua Book is an annual review of our regional economy in South Texas. The last year was full of big surprises. For this region as a whole, the biggest surprise was perhaps its continued resiliency to the low oil prices that were less than half of their peak levels in 2014. Indeed, some local economies were hard hit by the falling oil and gas industry, but a large number of communities continued to thrive. Given the extent of diversity across South Texas, it is difficult to understand developments at the broad regional level without delving into the conditions of individual communities.

This is our first attempt to cover each of the 41 counties within South Texas. In addition to the profiles for individual counties, we look at the five metro areas. Our data are organized in three perspectives: recent economic performance, the relative competitiveness of individual industries, and factors that drive long-term economic development. The dataset allows us to not only look back at our regional economies, but also look ahead at South Texas regional competitiveness.

We continue to look for ways to interact with you and to improve your experience. To enhance data visualization with interactive graphics, we are delivering this Aqua Book edition completely online. This new application enables you to more easily find the data you need, and it also allows us to more efficiently share our data with the public.

Other than keeping you informed about the current state of our regional economy, we hope this publication will help you better understand ways to unlock the potential of South Texas.

As always, we appreciate your readership and continued support of our work.

Editorial Team

South Texas Economic Development Center
College of Business
Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi


Aqua Book Editorial Team

Dr. John Gamble, Dean, College of Business

Dr. Jim Lee, Co-Editor

Dr. Elwin Myers, Co-Editor

Anh Pham, Research Assistant

Sonny Martinez, Graphic Designer


We have built a Cloud database in the form of Google Fusion Tables. This application not only allows us to slice and dice our data for analysis and presentation, but we now can also more efficiently share the data with the readers, or make periodic updates in the future.

Although our current focus is the region of South Texas, this database contains data for all counties in Texas. We present economic data in the form of 12 charts in total. Those charts help us visualize the underlying trends and patterns behind the data. We welcome other researchers to extract any part of the data tables or collaborate with us on future research work.

We look at the economic health of our region from three perspectives. The first perspective focuses on the short-term horizon, or the business cycle. Economic indicators in this category contains snapshots of an economy's overall direction in recent years. Such data also provide insights into the near-term economic outlook. The second perspective captures economic trends in the context of major changes in the economic landscape. By looking at the expansion or contraction of different industries in an area, we can understand the strengths and weaknesses of the regional economy. The third perspective is related to regional competitiveness in the long run, which determines a region's living standards. Collectively, these data of regional economic trends will hopefully provide us with guidance as to the future direction of the South Texas economy. Brief descriptions of the data are as follows.

Timely measures of an area's economic conditions include employment growth and unemployment rates, the total volume of local sales tax collections, residential building permits, and the average home appreciation rate. The two labor market indicators reflect the pace of economic activity. Better economic performance tends to result in higher job growth and lower unemployment. Local governments' sales tax revenues track local business trends from the perspective of retail sales and certain services, such as restaurant meals. Because the data of all these economic indicators are available on a monthly basis, they can help us monitor the current state of the local economy.

Fusion Table for employment and unemployment data
Fusion Table for sales tax data
Fusion Table for home construction and home price data

We look at the relative competitiveness of industries in a region through their relative sizes and how much they have expanded or contracted in recent years. The uniqueness of the local economy is best summarized by the concept of Location Quotient, which quantifies how concentrated each industry in a region as compared to the national average. A higher Location Quotient for a particular industry represents a larger relative role of that industry in the regional economy.

The Location Quotient or the size of an industry today is affected by various factors over time. Those factors can be grouped into three broad effects: Changes in the nation's overall economic conditions (national effect), changes in the competitiveness of that industry (industry effect), and changes specific to the local or regional economy (regional effect).

Fusion Table for industry data

A community's living standards rely on its residents' income earnings, which in turn are directly related to their educational attainment or job skills. People with more education and training tend to be more employable, earn higher wages, and accumulate more wealth than those with less education and training. For the community as a whole, new businesses drive economic growth in the long run because they typically create more jobs than existing businesses.

Higher population growth also helps strengthen local business development and employment growth by raising market demand for locally produced goods and services. The size of local population also tends to move along with the ups and downs of the economy. More people move to an area with better employment prospects, and they are more likely to move out of an area with high unemployment.

Fusion Table for employee earnings and business formation data
Fusion Table for educational attainment data
Fusion Table for migration and population growth data

Primary Data Sources

Real Estate Center at TAMU: Unemployment rate, employment growth, building permits, average home value, population and migration patterns

Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts: Sales Tax Collections

Economic Modeling Specialists International (EMSI): Employment by sectors, Locational Quotients of economic sectors, annual earnings per employees, business establishments, educational attainment

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis FRED data: County-level data for unemployment rates and personal income across the region