Cameron County in the Rio Grande Valley consists of the cities of Brownsville and Harlingen. Its labor market improved steadily over time since 2011. Yet it has sustained an unemployment rate at least 2 percentage points higher than the statewide average.
Like the nearby city of McAllen, this area experienced exceptionally strong employment growth in 2010. After 2010, job growth slowed down through the end of 2015. Year-over-year employment growth accelerated to about 2.5 percent during the last few months of 2016.
With persistently high unemployment rates after 2009, Cameron County's housing market as well as its overall business activity have grown only at a modest pace. During the past decade, the supply of newly constructed homes stayed steady at about half of the levels before 2007. Meanwhile, the average home price fluctuated around $100,000 with little appreciation.
The health care sector is the largest employer in Cameron County, accounting for nearly one-quarter of the local workforce. Tourism also plays a key role of the area economy. Businesses in retail trade, and accommodation and food services collectively account for another 23 percent of area employment. In addition to national trends, the concentration of the health care sector is the outcome of developments specific to the region.
Like other U.S.-Mexico border areas in Texas, this county's average income earnings per resident have stayed around 40 below the state average. This large income gap is associated with its workforce's substantially lower educational attainment. Only 16 percent of the adult population in the area has completed a college degree, compared to nearly 30 percent nationwide.
Since 2011, increasing outmigration has slowed down this area's population growth. While the public sector has expanded, the business sector has shrunk. By 2016, the number of business establishments per 1,000 residents in the area had dropped from 17.4 in 2007 to 15.1, which was 65 percent of the statewide average.