Photo courtesy: City of El Paso
While political talk stoked fears of the border, security and jobs for most of 2016, a recently-released report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas showed El Paso once again out-performed both state and national averages for job growth and economic activity.
According to the report, while El Paso’s economic activity expanded modestly, the area created jobs at a 2.5% pace, outperforming both the state and nation. Fed Officials say the growth is partially attributed to strong gains in maquiladora activity in Juárez; with trade inching up for the second consecutive year.
Even as payrolls grew in 2016, employment slowed from 2015 growth of 2.9% but surpassed its long-term average growth rate of 1.6%. Last year also marked the second consecutive year that El Paso job gains outperformed those of Texas (1.4 %) and the U.S. (1.6%).
El Paso added over 7,500 jobs with broad-based industry gains in 2016. Among the services industries, financial activities registered the fastest increase, rising 7.0% in 2016. It was followed by professional and business services (4.6%) and trade, transportation and utilities (3.4 %).
Even with U.S. industrial sector showing sluggish growth, Mexico’s maquiladoras continued to add jobs. According to Mexico’s IMMEX series, Juárez manufacturing employment totaled over 263,000 in November (latest data available), up 4.6 percent from a year ago.
Those numbers add up to total trade of $75.2 billion, up 2.8 percent from $73.1 billion in 2015. The increase was due to a 5.3 percent gain in imports, which offset a 0.6 percent decline in exports. While trade through the El Paso port of entry rose, total U.S.–Mexico trade declined 2.6 percent over the same time period, from $538 billion in 2015 to $525 billion in 2016
On the purchasing side, the El Paso housing market remained strong, even though home prices remain 5% below their 2008 first-quarter peak, according to a price index from the Federal Housing Finance Agency. While U.S. home prices dropped drastically due to the financial crisis, they are on an upward trend again and have surpassed their 2007 first-quarter peak price.
In Texas, home prices have increased at a much faster rate. On a year-over-year basis, home prices in Texas rose 12 percent, compared with El Paso’s growth of 4.0 percent and the national growth of 8.0 percent during the same period.
The El Paso metropolitan statistical area includes El Paso and Hudspeth counties.