A 2.6 percent jobless rate – “the lowest we’ve ever seen” – was the biggest news from the October Lubbock Economic Index.
But there was other good news.
The Index increased to a record 151.9, up a tick from September and 2.7 percent ahead of September last year.
“The predictions for 2018 are very positive and Lubbock is expected to enjoy more prosperity,” said Chip Gilmour, Lubbock National Bank senior vice president, who briefed local media on the report.
“Lubbock grows at a steady pace every decade. It’s grown around 7 percent the last decade,” said Gilmour.
The national gross domestic product growth of 3 percent is higher than previously thought and the healthy national economy – he hopes – will be boosted by the recently passed tax plan.
Gilmour was joined by Jeff Griffith, owner of RadioLab and a Lubbock City Councilman.
Griffith said Lubbock’s ongoing growth – the city’s population is around 255,000 and the metro area 320,000 – has created a very stable retail environment.
“People come from all over to shop here – our ability to grow has created a retail shopping mecca. We’re starting to see the benefit of our size,” he said, adding he expects the upcoming November and December reports to also show rising retail sales.
Here’s what else they discussed:
It’s tied for the 48th lowest rate in the country out of 388 metropolitan areas, fourth-lowest in Texas.
“There are quite a few job opportunities for full-time and part-time jobs and that bodes well for Texas Tech students who need a part-time job,” said Gilmour. “We’re blessed to have those kind of people out there.”
He said a number of the jobs are being driven by companies coming to Lubbock or expanding. “It’s part of having a healthy community,” he said.
The flip side, said Griffith, is the jobless rate is so low businesses are having a hard time filling jobs.
“Restaurants are struggling,” he said.
But the new South Plains College Lubbock campus and the expansion of the Byron Martin Center will help prepare more people for jobs such as auto mechanics, computer technicians, welding and in restaurants, he said.
Griffith pointed out a new brewery is going in near the Louise Hopkins Underwood Center for the Arts, there are plans to open the old Gardski’s.
He knows of one auto dealer who wants every auto mechanic graduate they can hire.
“We’ve seen a very healthy retail comeback through the holiday season and national numbers show spending up. In my business it’s been outstanding. It won’t hit double digits, but 7-8 percent growth,” said Griffith.
“New home permits are up 23 percent (year to date),” said Randy Laycock, Lubbock National Bank’s senior vice president, but Griffith added, “It’s still not enough to handle the demand.”
Lubbock National Bank Senior Vice President Chip Gilmour briefs local media each month on the report.