Though declining oil prices are making their mark on the state’s economy, Texans have great faith that the Lone Star State will adapt and keep revving its job-creation engine.
That’s among the findings in the third quarterly Insight Texas report, a partnership of Baselice & Associates, Influence Opinions and TXP that uses survey research, social media evaluation and economic analysis.
Texas Workforce Commission data show employment in the state rose 2.6 percent during the 12 months ending in June – a net gain of a little more than 250,000 jobs. This growth occurred despite a drop of 30,000 jobs in mining and manufacturing.
The reality: The newly created jobs tend to be lower-wage than those that were lost. And while total employment in Texas continues to expand, the rate of growth has noticeably slowed due to the loss of natural resource and manufacturing jobs.
The perception: Of those Texans surveyed, 43 percent viewed business conditions as “good,” while 44 percent saw conditions as “normal/so-so.”
And while 46 percent described current employment opportunities as “plentiful,” the same percentage said conditions were either “not so plentiful” or “hard to get.”
Meanwhile, a majority of Texans — 53 percent — continue to believe that local economic conditions are stronger than those of the U.S. as a whole, with only 7 percent believing the nation’s economy is in better shape than it is in Texas. Looking ahead six months, just under half of respondents (49 percent) believed job opportunities will remain about the same, while more than a third (35 percent) anticipated improvement in the labor market by the end of the year.
On social media, and on Twitter in particular, conversations about the Texas economy this past quarter honed in on oil prices, Obamacare, presidential politics and same-sex marriage. Rick Perry’s presidential aspirations were also a popular topic, as the former governor touted the state’s economic strength in an effort to raise his profile in a crowded Republican primary field. This could definitely be a positive for the Texas economy regardless of the success of Perry’s campaign.
As the Texas legislative session came to a close, we continued to see tweets on how specific bills would impact the state’s economy. We also saw many conversations around the U.S. Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage ruling, as people speculated on how the historic decision could pump millions of dollars into the Texas economy via the marriage and tourism industries.
We continue to see worrisome reports on declining oil prices and the negative effect it is having on the industry, particularly in terms of jobs and quarterly profits. As usual, the majority of economy tweets were neutral. However, 28 percent were positive, a rather large uptick from the 20 percent documented last quarter.
Pivoting to health care, another subject touched on in this quarter’s polling: When Texans tweet about it, they are nearly four times as likely to use the term “Obamacare” over the health plan’s name — the “Affordable Care Act.” And the sentiment around these health care tweets depends largely on the term chosen. “Obamacare” is used in more emotionally charged tweets. There were a fair number of tweets calling for its full repeal or expressing support for candidates who have made the issue a cornerstone of their campaigns.
However, the survey results also showed that 57 percent of respondents believe the government should continue to provide assistance to lower-income households to help them get health insurance. The answer to that question differs greatly among partisan subgroups: Only 27 percent of Republicans agree, while 52 percent of independents and 83 percent of Democrats do.
Disclosure: Mike Baselice and Elyse Yates have been donors to The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.