The economy of Duval County in the Coastal Bend region followed closely the rise and fall of the shale oil and gas industry in recent years. After reaching a peak of 13 percent in late 2009, its unemployment rate improved continually through the end of 2014. Rapid development of well drilling activity in the area also led to employment growth as much as 8 percent in late 2012.
The collapse of oil prices beginning 2015 has taken a hit on Duval County. The area lost more than 10 percent of local jobs in 2015, and job losses continued through 2016. Its unemployment rate surged immediately after drilling activity subsided, exceeding 10 percent during the final quarter of last year. Gauged by local sales tax collections, the area's overall business conditions have also weakened considerably.
In Duval County, the largest sector is government, which makes up over 30 percent of the local workforce. Other than health care, the mining sector accounts for more than 10 percent of all jobs in the county. Despite the concentration of jobs in oil and gas extraction today, the relative size of this industry in Duval County has in fact reduced since 2005. Much of this reduction is associated with local specific factors, rather than overall trends of the oil and gas industry.
The overall educational attainment level of residents in Duval County is lower than the U.S. average. Less than 10 percent of the adult population in the area holds a Bachelor's degree or higher, compared to nearly 30 percent nationwide. However, due to economic growth associated with shale oil and gas production, the average annual earnings of employees in this county have been quite close to the Texas state average.
Development of the shale oil and gas industry has also contributed to the overall growth of local businesses in Duval County. The number of business establishments per 1,000 residents has increased from 14.8 in 2005 to 18 today.