Fluctuation in the price of oil is one barometer of the local economy. Something more important according to Texas A&M real estate economist Jim Gaines while speaking at the chamber of commerce economic outlook conference is how the legislature will fund the university. Gaines says as the state funding of A&M goes, so goes the local economy. Gaines says some people are not being able to buy homes because of record high prices. The average price of a new home is more than 206 thousand dollars. Construction of new homes now takes nine months instead of five months due to demand from buyers combined with a shortage of laborers.
The state legislature has its first budget draft for the next two years. Topping the list for Brazos County State Senator Charles Schwertner is providing medical coverage for the uninsured. Schwertner says medical coverage now takes up 37-percent of the state budget causing a decrease in funding in other areas. School finance includes a slight increase for enrollment growth, but the big unknown remains the unresolved lawsuit over the funding formula. Schwertner chairs the Senate’s health and human services committee and is also a member of the senate finance committee.
And, when talking about unemployment rates, it’s hard to find much wrong with what’s happening in Texas. Hope Andrade, Commissioner of the Texas Workforce Commission, says the state jobless rate fell to 4.6-percent in December, the lowest it’s been in almost seven years. She says job creation is bringing people to the Lone Star State. She says the labor force has grown to 13-million in Texas. Andrade says in 2014 Texas created 457,900 jobs, far and away tops in the nation.