Research, Data, and Analysis Focused on Central Texas
Produced by the Capital Area Council of Governments
Author: Carol Fraser
While the fertile soils of the Central Texas region have long been an attraction for human settlement and agriculture, during the past few decades, rapid population growth and urbanization have been putting development pressure on available prime farmland. This process has meant significant changes in rural and suburban communities, as land use changes have reshaped the character of these communities.
Recognizing this trend, and seeking to revitalize the local agricultural economy, several groups in the region have been working towards preserving and rehabilitating local farmland. One idea that local organizations and governments are currently discussing is the potential for agricultural production on publicly owned land, and good locations for local food distribution centers and incubators.
The question is, how much publicly owned land is there in the region right now, and is it any good for farming or locating a food hub? CAPCOG decided to investigate at a regional scale.
Author: Matt Holderread
Every year, the Texas Department of Public Safety publishes the Crime in Texas Report, which provides summary information on seven types of crimes tracked and reported by law enforcement agencies that participate in Uniform Crime Reporting. These crimes include: murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, and auto theft. The uniformity of this reporting makes it easy to compare crime across the different law enforcement jurisdictions in Texas. In October 2017, the 2016 report was released. It contains information on the number of crimes reported, crimes cleared, and arrests made under each of the 7 index crimes.
Comparing crime data across all jurisdictions in the CAPCOG region can be useful to get a picture of crime trends and issues in the region’s different communities. Because the information provided in the Crime in Texas Report is presented in a format that makes analyzing the Capital Area difficult, we’ve compiled this information into a series of data visualizations below which includes some observations on total and violent crime in the CAPCOG region. Additional information and data on specific types of crime has been made available on CAPCOG’s Criminal Justice Resource Page.
In January of 2016, employment in the Austin metro had grown by 4.5% year over year. By December of 2016, year over year employment growth had slowed to 3.3%. As of October 2017, year over year employment growth slowed further to 2.2%. Throughout much of 2016 and 2017, job creation in the Austin metro area remained positive, but it was steadily declining. Moreover, it was falling well short of the high rates of growth seen in previous years.
At CAPCOG, we observed this trend and decided we should dig into the data a bit more. Are we looking at the beginnings of a recession in the local economy? Are other metro areas in Texas showing similar signs of slowing down? And wouldn’t you know it – while in the midst of developing this post, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released employment figures for November 2017, and for the first time in a while, they show a strong positive uptick – up to 2.8% employment growth year over year, compared to 2.2% in October. Now, one month’s worth of data doesn’t indicate a trend, but as we look at nearly two-year’s worth of data showing slowing job growth in the Austin metro area, it’s at least encouraging to see that sharply positive movement at the end of the line.
This is the second post in a series discussing the work the Capital Area Economic Development District (CAEDD) has undertaken to examine workforce development training in the Capital Area. To read the first post, click here.
One of the Boards that CAPCOG facilitates is the Capital Area Economic Development District (CAEDD), which convenes a group of elected officials, economic development practitioners, workforce development experts, and higher education leaders to coordinate responses to issues of economic competitiveness.
Recently, the CAEDD has been working to compile a snapshot of workforce development training providers in the Capital Area region. Because the region has two different workforce boards, multiple community college systems, and a vast array of apprenticeship programs, no single picture of available training resources is easily accessible. As it turns out, compiling that picture was a challenge for CAPCOG staff as well. However, we did successfully create a database that includes the following:
Recently, CAPCOG contributed to a conversation among regional stakeholders about how best to serve opportunity youth - generally defined as people between the ages of 16 and 24 who are neither in school nor working. A short summary of some of the analysis looking at youth in the region and existing employment information is provided below.
Over the past 10 years, population in the Capital Area has grown by roughly 50,000 people per year. Noting how newcomers are changing Central Texas is an evergreen discussion topic, but one thing that newcomers and long-time residents have in common is that both buy food locally. And rapid population growth has been good for the Capital Area food industry.
Between 2011 and 2016, total earnings in food retail (primarily grocery stores and restaurants) in the Capital Area grew by nearly 51 percent. Earnings per worker grew by almost 15 percent. Estimated total sales for the food retail sector in the Capital Area in 2015 was just shy of $7.6 billion.[i] Put succinctly, there’s quite a lot of money being spent on food in the Capital Area.
But for all of the attention that goes to locally-sourced produce at grocery stores, farmers markets, and farm-to-table restaurants, it’s worth asking, “Just how much of what we eat actually comes from local sources?” And for those approaching this question from an economic development angle, “How many of those dollars being spent on food are staying in the local economy, as opposed to going to food producers elsewhere?”
Every year, new jobs open up, and new people are credentialed to fill those jobs. But how close is the number of vacancies to the number of applicants? It turns out in the Austin MSA, the answer depends quite a bit on the type of job you're looking for.
The interactive graphic below shows occupation gaps (i.e., the farther left on the horizontal axis, the greater the oversupply of labor) according to average wages and education needed. You can also filter results by the amount of training, experience, and education required for individual occupations. Have a look below! (And once again, dots on the left are occupations with an oversupply of labor. Dots on the right have labor shortage - a gap).
Ever wondered how wages in the Austin Metro Area compare to similar regions? Us too.
The following graphic shows how local wages by major occupation group compare to a range of peer regions. Use the dropdown menues below the chart to select a comparison region and toggle whether or not the graphic controls for cost of living.
One note - the cost of living adjustment considers cost of living at a metro area scale. When controlling for cost of living, the Austin MSA appears to pay wages among the highest of the peer regions analyzed. However, some of this effect is driven by the low cost of living in many of the communities surrounding Austin and Travis County. Limiting the cost of living calculation to a smaller area, such as only the counties along the IH-35 corridor, would have the effect of bringing cost-of-living-adjusted wages in the region more in line with other peer cities.
There is a general understanding among Capital Area residents that the local economy is strong. One of the questions that flows naturally out of a period of robust economic growth is, “How long will this last?” A recent report issued by The Brookings Institute provides useful context for that question by examining what they’ve termed, “advanced industries.” Generally speaking, the Brookings Institute’s group of advanced industries includes high value sectors in manufacturing, energy, and services that utilize high-skill workers. These are industries thought to drive innovation and advance the technological frontier.
When introducing their advanced industries series, the Brookings Institute lays out several justifications for studying the specific advanced industries they identify. The authors note that “From 1980 to 2013, [economic output in] advanced industries expanded at a rate of 5.4 percent annually—30 percent faster than the economy as a whole. Since the Great Recession, moreover, both employment and output have risen dramatically.” (1) So one reason advanced industries matter is that they are highly productive sectors where new jobs are being created at great scale.
Another reason to pay attention to advanced industries is because these industries tend to pay high wages to workers. The same initial Brookings study notes that “In 2103, the average advanced industries worker earned $90,000 in total compensation, nearly twice as much as the average worker outside the sector.” (2) If we in the Capital Area are interested not just in job growth, but also in livable-wage job growth, a richer understanding of the advanced industries creating high-wage jobs seems prudent.
Also, Brookings’ most recent update in their advanced industries research shows that while the sector continues to grow in aggregate, that growth is becoming increasingly concentrated in certain metropolitan areas. In other words, the forces driving the growth of advanced industries are responsive to local economic conditions. This affords us the opportunity to look at advanced industries in the Capital Area in greater detail, with an eye toward understanding the existing landscape of advanced industries in our region and the factors influencing their growth.
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Data Points is a blog dedicated to policy and planning issues in the Capital Area of Central Texas. It is produced by staff at the Capital Area Council of Governments (CAPCOG).