A low unemployment rate, improving retail and auto sales and continuing solid construction numbers fueled another record number for the July Lubbock National Bank Economic Index.
The Index inched up to 151.2, a tenth higher than June, but 3.3 percent ahead of July last year.
Here are five takeaways from the July report from Chip Gilmour, Lubbock National Bank senior vice president.
Retail sales, which had stayed slow the past few months even though the stock market was growing, were up 6.6 percent over the same month a year ago and up 1.6 percent year to date.
Auto purchases were also up almost 11 percent for July over July last year and up 4.3 percent year to date.
“Consumer confidence is up,” said Gilmour.
Gilmour was joined by Gene Crites, owner of Lubbock’s Snelling Staffing Services.
Jobless numbers in July were 3.6 percent, compared to 4.1 percent a year ago and job growth was at 1.5 percent over the same period.
“It’s a tight market. If people are looking for jobs there are plenty available,” Crites said, adding he sees needs for top-end carpenters.
Lubbock has an ongoing need for skilled laborers in many areas and some people may want to consider a different education path than a traditional four-year college degree, he said. “A guy who goes and gets an HVAC certificate in 18 months can be making $70,000. Another person gets a degree and is in debt. Kids can make a lot of money doing other things and could grow their own company. I know guys who have body shops and do well,” he said.
Crites also said he sees needs for people in professions where you do need a college degree – such as accounting and engineering.
He also addressed how even though Lubbock continues to grow jobs, the rate has slowed and Lubbock ranks 16th of the 26 Texas metro areas in job growth.
“Lubbock is its own island. It’s slow and steady like the tortoise, not boom and bust.
I’ve been doing this since the 1980s and it typically remains pretty level. Not growth like Dallas and other metro areas, but we also don’t have their drops,” he said.
Nicole Sharp, Snelling’s director of operations, joined Crites and Gilmour and added she’s seeing more businesses feeling comfortable filling positions lately after last year’s tumultuous political process.
Construction numbers are still very strong – even though some are down, but they are down compared to record-breaking numbers. “These are still very healthy numbers,” said Gilmour.
Oil was at $43.10 a barrel, up 3.7 percent from July of last year, but below expectations earlier in the year. Gilmour expects gas prices – up after Hurricane Harvey – to drop.
Lubbock’s 2.4 percent increase in the Consumer Price Index is still “a little high,” he said, driven by energy prices and the recent dramatic rising value of homes.
Lubbock National Bank Senior Vice President Chip Gilmour briefs local media each month on the report.