The Rand Building – Geekdom's new digs. Photo courtesy of the SA Conservation Society.
The Rand Building – Geekdom's new digs. Photo courtesy of the SA Conservation Society.
Robert Rivard

If you’re looking for a job right now, there is no better place to be than Texas and very few cities outpace San Antonio. That’s the key finding of a new study analyzing regional job growth by the Washington, D.C.-based Brookings Institution.

Of the nation’s Top 100 cities, only 14 had surpassed pre-recession employment levels by the start of 2013. Six of those cities are in Texas: Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Houston, McAllen and San Antonio.

San Antonio finished 6th overall in rankings that looked at pre-recession to present employment and unemployment swings, the housing costs, and economic output (GDP), and 28th in the latest quarterly ranking.  Oklahoma City also was among the Top 14, an indication of the thriving Energy Corridor that extends from Oklahoma down through the booming Eagle Ford Shale play in South Texas.

Screen shot from the Brookings Metro Monitor Summary. Click the image to visit the study's findings.
Screen shot from the Brookings MetroMonitor Summary. Click the image to visit the study’s findings.

Other cities known for their brainpower-driven economies – Seattle, Portland, Salt Lake City, Omaha – all showed high job growth.

The study reinforces a report released last week by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics that shows Texas continues to pace the national recovery with job growth and falling unemployment. It’s 6.4% unemployment rate is by far the lowest of the big population states, notably lower than California, with 9.6% unemployment, a state perceived as a vulnerable recruiting target for Texas and other low-regulatory states, and Illinois, at 9.5%.

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Paradoxically, California also showed high overall job growth, thanks to recovery in the San Francisco, the Silicon Valley and in Bakersfield, but the state is recovering from a recession that hit far harder there than in Texas.

Austin’s unemployment rate of 5.4% is lowest among the Texas metro areas, with San Antonio second at 6.1% and Fort Worth, Dallas and Houston all within a few tenths of a percentage point in the 6.2-6.4% range.

For San Antonio job hunters, there has been strong job growth in energy, technology, professional services, the hospitality trade, and construction. Some growing companies, such as Rackspace, have reported difficulty finding enough trained workers to fill existing professional positions as fast as they are being created.

A recent article on the website cited San Antonio as one of the country’s six best cities for entrepreneurs and startups. The article cited progressive policies enacted by the City of San Antonio to spur downtown redevelopment and the launching by Graham Weston of Geekdom. The placed San Antonio at the top of a list that included Des Moines, Miami, Kansas City, Atlanta and Omaha.

On Monday, WestonUrban, its namesake’s new downtown real estate investment firm, announced acquisition from Frost Bank of the historic Rand Building at 100 E. Houston St, a deal that includes an adjacent 450-space parking garage. The six-story, century-old building was the tallest building in San Antonio in 1913 when it was built, and later was saved from demolition by the San Antonio Conservation Society.  The building will become the new home to Geekdom, which now occupies two floors of the Weston Centre and  continues to grow, and probably will house other Weston business ventures.

The Rand Building – Geekdom's new digs. Photo courtesy of the SA Conservation Society.
The Rand Building – Geekdom’s new digs. Photo courtesy of the SA Conservation Society.

People who live in other parts of the country, however, still don’t feel like they’ve outlived the Great Recession because job growth hasn’t been strong enough to put everyone back to work. Nearly one-fourth of the Top 100 cities — 22 in all — have continued to shed jobs since the end of the recession.

The so-called Great Recession began in late 2007 and ended in the summer of 2009, although individual families have continued to feel the aftereffects much longer, especially where breadwinners lost their jobs and have not found replacement work at the same wage levels, and families caught in the huge housing bubble. Even today, with the recovery well into its third year and markets showing record highs, there are still three million fewer jobs in the U.S.

Cities still struggling tended to be grouped in the Great Lakes and the Northeast, although there were exceptions. One was Michigan, where both Detroit and Grand Rapids showed surprising rebounds. Strong job gains there, however, have to be taken in the context of very high unemployment levels reached at the height of the recession. In the Northeast, cities like Philadelphia, Providence, Buffalo, Syracuse and Albany all fared poorly.  Boston, with a strong hi tech sector, and Washington D.C., showed strong job growth.

Not all the trouble spots are found on the East and West Coasts or around the Great Lakes. Nevada and New Mexico both struggle with high unemployment rates and low job growth.

The other side of the story is the parallel improvement in the housing markets where the new jobs are being created. More gainfully employed people are using their earnings and rising confidence to enter or re-enter the housing market, which, in turn, is driving up prices as demand exceeds new starts.

For San Antonio, the rising house market will continue to track alongside a robust rental market, with hundreds of new urban core apartments coming online and hundreds more about to leave the drawing board for construction. The continued influx of young professionals from other cities and locals trading their parents’ home in the suburbs for an inner city address means that demand will remain strong.  Some small-scale projects in Southtown are being planned, but the next big change is likely to come along Broadway south of the Pearl.

Follow Robert Rivard on Twitter @rivardreport or on Facebook.

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Robert Rivard

Robert Rivard, co-founder of the San Antonio Report, is now a freelance journalist.