economic pulse

Current Issue

Local Housing Outlook ...

Based on the current trends in local housing supply and the outlook for housing demand in the midst of a construction boom and post-Harvey rebuilding activities, imbalances in the Corpus Christi housing market are expected to accelerate in the medium term. The outcomes would be higher home prices and lower housing affordability, particularly among newly built homes.

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Past Issues


Local Housing Outlook

Jim Lee

Based on the current trends in local housing supply and the outlook for housing demand in the midst of a construction boom and post-Harvey rebuilding activities, imbalances in the Corpus Christi housing market are expected to accelerate in the medium term. The outcomes would be higher home prices and lower housing affordability, particularly among newly built homes.
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Workforce Impact of Construction Boom

Jim Lee

The ongoing capital development projects near the Port of Corpus Christi and post-Harvey rebuilding efforts across the Coastal Bend together not only would raise the demand for regional construction and craft workforce, but they would also boost overall employment in the region for years to come. Whether the expected economic impacts will be realized depends critically on the extent to which the region's education and skill training institutions satisfy the surges in workforce demand.
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Harvey's Impact on Corpus Christi

Jim Lee

Hurricane Harvey is widely recognized as one of the costliest natural disasters in U.S. history, ahead of Sandy but behind Katrina. This article focuses on its impact on communities within the Corpus Christi metro area, where the storm made its first landfall. Simulation exercises suggest that the extended economic impact in the form of cumulative output losses reduces substantially the sooner those communities can recover. This points to the role of government assistance in mitigating disaster impacts.
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Education System in Corpus Christi

Jim Lee

Student performance disparities across local schools and measures of economic status are consistent among different subjects and different grade levels. About 30% of freshmen at Corpus Christi's two public higher education institutions are local high school graduates. These institutions' retention and graduation rates are relatively low, due in part to students who require developmental course work. Low graduation rates explain the relatively low educational attainment levels among local residents.
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Best Recession Recovered Cities

Jim Lee

Major cities in Texas are leading the nation in recovering from the Great Recession that began a decade ago in 2007. According to a recent report by Honestly Now, Corpus Christi is the 45th fastest growing city since 2010. The city is among the top 10 best cities in terms income and employment growth, but it is close to the bottom in terms of measures of economic resilience. The disparity in those scores highlights the importance of long-term versus short-term factors for local economic growth.
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Immigrants in Corpus Christi

Jim Lee

While the population share of immigrants in Corpus Christi is relatively small, an estimate of one in three of them are undocumented workers. Nearly 60% of local immigrants were born in Mexico, and the number of those from Asia has soared. Proportionally more immigrants have a graduate degree and less than a high school education. Undocumented immigrants are heavily concentrated in some labor-intensive industries of the construction and services sectors.
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What Levels the Playing Field?

Jim Lee

This article summarizes some recent findings on income and wealth gaps for the major racial and ethnic groups. College education and other observable factors that reflect individual choices do not collectively explain all the observed economic disparities for Blacks and Hispanics, highlighting the extent of our ignorance about the underlying causes of racial/ethnic inequality.
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Demystifying the $10 Billion Impact

Jim Lee

San Patricio County has been selected as the location for the construction of the world?s largest plastics manufacturing plant. The $10 billion capital expenditures will generate a sizeable impact on that county, but its neighboring Nueces County will reap most of the ripple effects. Economic impacts will also vary by industry. Compared to the construction phase, the plant in operation will create a larger multiplier effect due to the permanent nature of the direct jobs that also pay substantially more.
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Recent Employment Dynamics

Jim Lee

Since oil prices collapsed in late 2014, the upstream oil and gas industry has shed over 3,000 jobs locally, but Corpus Christi has sustained a relatively modest downturn in employment due to a variety of factors, including industry-wide and nationwide growth, and self-employment across different sectors, particularly professional and business services.
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Economic Diversity Across South Texas

Jim Lee

This is a summary of the 2017 edition of Aqua Book, published annually by the South Texas Economic Development Center. The local economies of South Texas are diverse. This aspect of the region makes it difficult to apply any one-size-fits-all type of economic development policy for the region.
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Local Business Dynamics

Jim Lee

Business formation and growth are the key sources of long-term economic growth. In this article, we take a close at small versus big businesses, and new versus established businesses in Corpus Christi. The data highlight the importance of business startups and the business churning process to the local economy.
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Housing Market Downswing?

Jim Lee

Corpus Christi's housing market has been booming since 2010. Despite a slowdown in the local economy, residential construction remains active and home prices stay at historically high levels. Is the housing boom coming to an end soon?
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Impacts of Rising Seas

Jim Lee

Corpus Christi is one of the Gulf cities most vulnerable to the risk of rising sea levels. This article presents estimated impacts under the alternative scenarios of higher water levels by two feet and six feet. Given the projected sea level changes, the impacts seem manageable, but the increase in economic losses would accelerate for each additional foot of higher water level.
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Closing Income Gaps with Education

Jim Lee

Survey data show that youth who grow up in areas with more manufacturing are more likely to finish high school and college. In regions with more degree-intensive employment, children born to parents without college education are more likely to be college graduates. Simple calculations indicate substantial returns on public funding for human capital investment that may reduce the region's educational and income gaps.
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Seasonal Employment

Jim Lee

Monthly employment and unemployment data for Corpus Christi show remarkable seasonal patterns. In addition to employment in the agricultural sector, local government employment displays a distinct regular pattern within a year. Those seasonal factors could potentially bias interpretations of changes in local economic activity based on official data without seasonal adjustment.
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A Tale of Two Oil Towns

Jim Lee

Corpus Christi relies on the oil and gas industry as much as Houston does. Both metro areas have been resilient to the impact of the current oil bust. As construction and service-oriented employment is slowing down, those two regional economies are facing new challenges in light of heightened uncertainty about the near-term outlook, while recent trends in job postings and business sentiment are positive.
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Where You Live Matters

Jim Lee

Where you live matters to your children's future economic success and perhaps how long you live. Communities across the Coastal Bend fare well in offering children an opportunity to move up the economic ladder, especially those in poor families. The average life expectancy of local residents, however, lags behind the national average, particularly for the poor. This article is part of the series that focuses on economic disparities in South Texas.
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How Distressed is Our Community?

Jim Lee

This article summarizes the findings of the Distressed Communities Index for Corpus Christi. While the Index for the metro area as a whole is relatively low, indicating a relatively high living standard locally, the scores vary vastly across its counties and zip codes. Geographic disparities in economic prosperity affect long-term community development as well as individuals' lifetime economic success. This article is part of the series that focuses on economic disparities in South Texas.
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Disparities in Local Business

Jim Lee

Statistical evidence indicates that underutilization of local Hispanic and women-owned businesses is pervasive and entrenched in Corpus Christi. The disparity gaps for those businesses are the outcomes of their rapid growth in number but not in size, measured by sales or employment. This highlights the importance of developing existing local businesses as opposed to creating more new businesses.
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Understanding Local Unemployment

Jim Lee

This article takes an inside look at South Texas's labor market by breaking down the unemployed workforce by industry and education level. The unemployment rate is remarkably higher in mining and construction, and lower in the service sector. Those without previous work experience make up the largest category of unemployment, and the majority of job seekers are least educated or without a college education.
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Corpus Christi by the Rankings

Jim Lee

This article provides an overview of various rankings for Corpus Christi in comparison with other U.S. cities. With extraordinary employment and income growth in recent years, Corpus Christi was ranked among the top 10 cities by WalletHub for overall growth, job opportunities, and business climate. Judged by various aspects of the quality of life, including environmental quality, active lifestyle and education, then the local area pales by comparison. Today Corpus Christi is best known as a city with lots of work and little fun.

Local Divergence after the Fall

Jim Lee

Historically, the economic conditions of local communities within the Corpus Christi metro area tended to move in lockstep over time. During the past year, even though employment growth was quite evenly spread across the region, some local economies began to diverge, reflecting the direct impact of construction activities in various large-scale industrial sites on their surrounding businesses. This results in a shift of economic gravity from the south side of Corpus Christi Bay toward its north side.

Advanced Manufacturing Drives Local Economy

Jim Lee

While oil and natural gas production in South Texas has been a main source of recent employment and income growth for Corpus Christi, industries in advanced manufacturing have emerged as the leaders in driving local GDP growth. Advanced manufacturing industries, which involve high levels of technology and workforce skills, are key to the region's future economic growth.

Survival of the Fittest in Texas Oil

Jim Lee

A new study found that extraction of gas wells brought greater local economic impacts than oil wells during the shale oil boom period. The positive effect of low natural gas prices on the average production rate of gas wells is now being felt in oil production in the aftermath of a recent collapse in the world oil markets. The current survival of the fittest phenomenon tends to be more consistent with sustainable economic development in South Texas.

Local Health Care Dilemma

Jim Lee

Health care is the largest private-sector employer in Corpus Christi. Expansion in health care facilities reflects local population trends. Despite employment growth among health care professionals, the increases of physicians in different specialties have lagged behind the rest of the nation. Those gaps post a challenge particularly in accommodating the medical needs of the rapidly growing old age population in South Texas.

Economic Disparity Among Us

Jim Lee

Hispanics make up 60 percent of the Corpus Christi population, and nearly half of the local workforce is female. Despite their increasingly significant roles in the regional economy, these minority groups have continued to fall behind in income earnings. Higher education explains much economic disparity among various demographic groups, but schooling is far from providing a level playing field, highlighting the complexity of this deeply rooted socioeconomic issue.
» Online Supplementary Data on Local Demographics »

Small Business Climate

Jim Lee

Texas and the state's major cities have been ranked the best in friendliness toward small businesses. Training opportunities and ease of regulatory compliance are key factors for entrepreneurs' perceptions of the business environment. Local small business climate is key to job creation. The patterns of local business growth reflect population and income growth.


Aging Corpus Christi

Jim Lee

The Corpus Christi metro area has a rapidly growing population aged 60 years or older due in part to migration of baby boomers. Those older adults make up almost half of the population in Aransas County today. Their share of the metro area population will exceed 25 percent by 2030. This development has profound implications for long-term community plans such as Plan CC 2035.

Economic Diversification in South Texas

Jim Lee

Diversification has become a long-term planning priority for many local communities in South Texas. This newsletter is the second in a series of articles that describe the extent of economic diversity within the region. Larger economies tend to be more diversified and more stable over time. The role of diversity across industries differs between measures by employment and by income.

Construction as a New Game Changer

Jim Lee

This newsletter provides evidence in support of the widely held argument that current developments in industrial projects can more than offset the negative economic effect of falling oil production on South Texas. Employment data suggest that the regional economic impact of the shale oil boom already peaked out in 2012. Since then, the so-called New Economic Paradigm has shifted, with the construction industry as the new game changer for the Corpus Christi economy.

Local Employment Outlook

Jim Lee

This article presents the short-term economic look for Corpus Christi from two vantage points: one as the aftermath of the recent plunge in oil prices, and another in light of ongoing capital developments around the Port. Those industrial construction projects would absorb much but not all of the slack associated with expected cutbacks in shale oil production, and so local employment growth is expected to slow down considerably from the solid pace in 2014.

A More Diversified Economy?

Jim Lee

By standard measures, Corpus Christi is less, not more, economically diverse today than in the past. Despite this reality against the popular myth regarding local industries, the relative size of the mining sector has diminished considerably across South Texas since the oil market crash of the mid-1980s. This finding alone implies that the South Texas regional economy would probably be less vulnerable to the effects of the recent plunge in oil prices, although more economic diversity is not the underlying reason.

Payoffs of Advanced Training and Resource Curse

Jim Lee

In recent years, the unemployment rate of local residents with some advanced training or an associate's degree has been below the unemployment rate for a bachelor's degree. The relative payoff of postsecondary education less than a four-year college degree is heightened by recent growth in shale oil and gas production across South Texas. Such anomalies in the local labor market reflect the so-called resource curse concerning the impact of an oil boom on the local community.

Corpus Christi as One of America's Happiest Cities

Jim Lee

According to survey data, Corpus Christi is ranked among the top 10 cities across the United States for self-reported happiness. Residents in Corpus Christi are overall happier than those living in Austin and New York City. Americans in the South and particularly along the Gulf Coast tend to be happier than people in southern California and the Rust Belt. Yet the fact that people continue to move into those unhappy areas suggests that individuals can trade happiness for higher incomes or other financial gains.


What Drives Coastal Bend Employment Growth?

Jim Lee

Employment growth since 2010 has been quite uneven across industries in the Coastal Bend. Local industries that have expanded at a pace faster than the nation's are responsible for virtually all net job gains in the region. Industries that are directly or indirectly associated with oil and gas production have accounted for at least half of overall employment growth in the region.

From Oil Boom to Sustainable Economic Growth

Jim Lee

Connecting the long road to sustainable growth from the current economic boom are physical and human capital accumulations, among other things. Workforce development appears to be the weakest link in South Texas, contributing to historical income and skills gaps with the rest of the nation. To bridge such gaps, local higher education institutions and workforce training facilities could acccelerate their student enrollments and graduation rates by multiple folds. Yet a more effective alternative is to focus on academic programs of professional degrees, such as engineering and medicine, which generate higher "wage premiums."

Resurgence of an Industry

Jim Lee

The Coastal Bend is undergoing an industrial renaissance. A construction boom led by a record number of industrial capital projects is generating a surge in demand for construction labor and craft skills. Once completed, those large-scale industrial facilitates will generate a permanent gain of industrial manufacturing employment, reversing the historical trend of that sector.

Community Benefits of Type A Funds

Jim Lee

This article reviews the economic significance of the City of Corpus Christi's Type A funds, which are supported by a one-eighth cent sales tax. Quantitative evidence supports that the public funds have benefited the local community by: (1) maintaining sustainable development of the downtown business and residential community; (2) enhancing the quality of life of Corpus Christi residents; (3) promoting continued development of local tourism; (4) fulfilling the housing needs of low-income families and seniors; (5) facilitating the development of a skilled workforce through local higher education institutions; (6) nurturing career development for college graduates; and (7) assisting the development or expansion of both large and small local businesses.

BRAC's Impact on Regional Economies

Jim Lee

This article presents key findings of a study that investigates the impact of the 2005 round of BRAC on local economies across the United States. In contrast to the common methodology, which generates projections of potential economic impacts from input-output models, this study applies statistical methods to historical data of U.S. counties. The results reveal considerable resilience of local economies to base closures or downsizing. Base expansions, on the other hand, spur local employment and income. There is also evidence supporting different impact sizes across military divisions, and across employment types.
» Online Supplementary Data »

Vision 2020: How Big Will We Get?

Jim Lee

Accurate forecasts of population growth are crucial for gauging future infrastructure and resource needs. The conventional methodology of relying on historical trends is no longer reliable for the Coastal Bend in the shadow of the Eagle Ford oil boom. This article compares a number of local population forecasts, including two new sets of projections based on current employment growth and migration patterns.
» Online Supplementary Data< »/a>


Local Climate Change

Jim Lee

Historical data reveal signs of climate change for Corpus Christi. An unprecedented warming trend emerged beginning in the mid-1970s, resulting in rising energy consumption for local residents. In contrast to the ob-served deviations from historical norms in local temperature, the current rainfall patterns seem to align with some periodical or recurring effects. This reduces the uncertainty regarding whether the current drought conditions will persist indefinitely.

The Business of Incubating Businesses

Jim Lee

The Coastal Bend Innovation Center has helped with the development of nearly 100 new local business ventures since its inception in 2009. While some of those startups have thrived, others have probably failed. A large number of those firms operate in high-tech or green manufacturing industries, which the region lacks. As important as being a platform for entrepreneurship activity, the Center's close tie to its university has also created an environment for training tomorrow's business professionals.

A Tale of Two Counties

Jim Lee

Historically, the economies of the two major counties in the Corpus Christi metro area, Nueces and San Patricio, tended to move up and down together over time. During the latter half of the past decade, events like BRAC and structural shifts across local industries, set the growth paths of the two communities apart. Yet their overall standards of living, as measured by per capita income, have almost converged.

Year 2012 in Review

Jim Lee

The Coastal Bend economy posted solid gains in economic activity and employment during 2012. The housing market, the main driver of the most recent economic downturn, also began to experience sustained expansion. Yet the regional economy is also showing early signs of slowing down, possibly due to a bottleneck in some industries. Improvement in infrastructure and the overall production capacity, including physical and human capital, will help extend the region's recent growth momentum.

Reversal of Fortunes for South Texas

Jim Lee

The South Texas economy has experienced a reversal of fortunes. During the past two decades, the economic gap between the region and the nation as a whole shrank steadily. Today, Corpus Christi outperforms the U.S. in terms of employment and income growth. While development in the Eagle Ford Shale region has played a prominent role in bolstering regional economic activity, the recent growth experience in South Texas might have also been driven by other long-term factors, including persistent upswings in oil prices and a more educated local workforce. An understanding of the major source of regional economic growth bears important policy implications.


Coastal Bend Regional Growth: How Much is Regional?

Jim Lee

This article is the second part of the study series that looks at the extent to which the Eagle Ford Shale oil and gas drilling activity weighs on the local economies in the Coastal Bend. The extent of the impact depends on the relative economic strengths, or comparative advantages, of the local communities. Recent economic growth was rather uneven across counties. A shift-share analysis indicates that the regional economic impact of the Eagle Ford Shale is also widespread across different industries, reflecting the region's unique infrastructure and diversified workforce. For all industries together, local-specific factors accounted for more than one-third of regional employment growth in 2011.

Regional Economic Impact of the Eagle Ford Shale: 2011 Update

Jim Lee

This article provides an update for the impact of the Eagle Ford Shale oil and gas production activity on the regional economy of the Coastal Bend. The mining, trade and transportation, and hospitality sectors have witnessed phenomenal growth in Corpus Christi. In 2011, the booming oil and gas industry in South Texas generated at least 1,600 local jobs, which accounted for 32 percent of the area's total employment growth. The three Coastal Bend counties that sit atop the Eagle Ford Shale formation also experienced a combined gain of nearly 600 jobs and $80 million in business revenues.

BRAC V: The Aftermath

Jim Lee

In this article, we look at the local experience during the last round of BRAC. Historical data depict a vivid picture of the impact of the closure of Naval Station Ingleside on San Patricio County, which witnessed a loss of over 3,000 residents during that process. In addition to those jobs eliminated directly by the federal government, the county lost more than 850 jobs, or about 3 percent of its workforce. While the actual impact seemed more tenuous than most forecasts, the economic pain felt by local residents and business owners far exceeded their gains in tax savings from BRAC.

Dollars and Sense in Literacy, Education, and Innovation

Jim Lee

This article takes a close look at the extent of literacy, education and innovative activity in determining the overall economic well-being of Corpus Christi. While evidence suggests only a weak relationship between literacy and wage earnings, the payoff is substantial for a high level of education attainment. For the Corpus Christi community, innovation capacity and innovative activity are the key factors of its competitiveness that drives future economic growth.


Another Tale of Two Cities: Corpus Christi and Hong Kong

Jim Lee

This article looks at factors that have contributed to the growth miracle of Hong Kong. With an early history as a trading post along a deepwater harbor, this city-state bears much resemblance to Corpus Christi. Yet a laissez faire institutional structure, in which highly competitive markets operate alongside an efficient public sector with a low tax burden, contributes much to Hong Kong's economic growth that is four times greater.

Regional Economic Impact of the Eagle Ford Shale

Jim Lee

This article provides an overview of the current oil boom in Texas since the drilling of the first oil well in the Eagle Ford Shale in 2008. Eagle Ford oil and gas production will have a remarkable economic impact on a large number of South Texas communities for years to come. How much this oil boom will benefit the Coastal Bend region as a whole remains to be seen.

Accounting for the Regional Impact of the Recovery Act

Jim Lee

Since the passage of the Recovery Act in early 2009, over 50 infrastructure construction and improvement projects have been undertaken in the Coastal Bend through the federal stimulus program. A counterfactual exercise shows that the most recent economic downturn would have been much more severe without those projects. Regional unemployment would have been as much as 2 percentage points higher.

China, the Economy and the Coastal Bend

Jim Lee

As the world's second largest economy behind the U.S., China has become the focal point of global trade and investment flows. With a massive Chinese investment project underway locally, this article provides a snapshot on economic interactions between China and the Coastal Bend region.

A Decade of Change in the Coastal Bend

Jim Lee

During the first decade of the 21st century, the Coastal Bend economy grew modestly, as compared to Texas and the United States as a whole. A close look at the region's past performance helps us understand the future prospect of our community. Relatively low income levels and slow employment growth locally prompt concerns about a possible decline in our quality of life.

Prior Years

ABOUT Economic Pulse

Economic Pulse is a joint publication of the College of Business, South Texas Economic Development Center, and the EDA University Center at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.

The primary focus of this newsletter is business, economic and community developments in South Texas. Viewpoints and opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.