Our November Economic Index shows continued growth, lowest jobless rate in 16 years
The unemployment rate dropped to 3 percent – its lowest level in 16 years. “We added 2,100 new jobs,” said Gilmour. But he said the improvement is not seasonal holiday hiring. “Texas Tech and the healthcare industry are absorbing jobs. There are some concerns with Kmart, Sears and Walmart cutting back,” but the jobless percentage still dropped, he said.
Oil prices were $42.06 a barrel in November, up 7.2 percent from a year ago, but it has already jumped above $50 early in 2017 with predictions to go up around $55-60 a barrel, said Gilmour. “Hopefully gas stabilizes around $2 a gallon, but it may rise up around $2.35.”
Cotton continues to climb out of its prolonged slump – up to 68.56 cents a pound in November – up 15 percent from a year ago. But the price is still well below the robust $2 a pound seen six years ago.
Owning a home is still paying off. The average home sales price in November was up 2.1 percent over November 2015 and 9.7 percent year to date.
Overall, another record number for the Index – 148.9 – up from 148 in October and from 146.2 for November of 2015.
Retail sales were down 3.8 percent in November compared to the same month a year ago – after the October Index saw the first increase in retail sales for 2016. Why? One is rising healthcare costs. But there are other reasons, said Gilmour. “We’ve seen uncertain times the last few years and people are going to be cautious on how they spend money. A big section of the population has not saved money for emergencies or retirement and are realizing they better start. People are also becoming more savvy about disposable income. But there’s still a whole section of people who live for the moment and don’t have a healthy plan.”
Lubbock National Bank Senior Vice President Chip Gilmour briefs local media each month on the report.