The Texas Miracle

How stellar is the Lone Star State's jobs record, really?

Jim Young/Reuters
Without Texas, there would be no recovery.
At least, that's the sense you get from a recent line of argument that runs from Governor Rick Perry's office through the right-of-center think-tank community. "Job creation in just one state—Texas—is solely responsible for the 1.169 million net increase in total U.S. employment ... [between] December 2007 and December 2014," Mark J. Perry writes at AEI. The accompanying graph makes Texas look like a tireless longhorn steer dragging the limp carcass of the other 49 state economies toward recovery.

Percent Change in Employment: Texas vs. U.S.-Minus-Texas, December 2007 to December 2014

The idea that Texas is the only state with positive job creation since the recession is an illusion facilitated by the graph. In fact, most states have added jobs since December 2007—29 of them, to be exact.

But the immense scale of Texas' job creation is hardly illusory. The Lone Star State has added more jobs since December 2007 than the next six states—California, New York, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Louisiana, and Minnesota—combined. That's because, although no state has grown as fast as North Dakota in the last four years, no large state has added jobs at anything close Texas' rate, thanks largely to its shallow recession and the spillover effects of a buoyant energy industry, which might be threatened by the collapse in gas prices. (The following graph doesn't include California, which has added more jobs since the January 2010 employment bottom than any other state, including Texas.)

Percent Change in Employment Since the Recession and Since the Last Employment Low

I've built this map of non-farm jobs overlaid with the employment-percent changes since December 2007 to give you a sense of how exceptional the records of North Dakota and Texas have been. The largest states that still haven't returned to their pre-recession employment levels are Florida, Illinois, Ohio, and Michigan, but the states with the largest drop in post-recession employment are Nevada and Mississippi.

Percent Change in Employment Between 2007 and 2014

Just as national employment stories overshadow state-by-state variation, a map of states is going to paint over the finer details of each city. For example, Miami added the fifth-most jobs of any city in the country in 2014, but you won't learn that from a map of Florida's jobs record.
But the metro story helps to tell the state story when it comes to Texas. Even seven years after the recession bit, the great jobs engine keeps churning, as Houston and Dallas added more jobs in 2014 than any other metro area in the country. Indeed Texas's jobs record might be less miraculous than some conservatives argue, but it remains more spectacular than most liberals realize.