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Houston Economic Outlook | 2022 - 2023

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Key Takeaways

  • Jobs over recovered from pandemic
  • Unemployment low
  • Energy sector jobs increase
  • WTI crude prices expected to
    remain between $80-$90/b in 2023
  • Port Houston sets records

Houston Highlights

The Houston MSA population grew by 112,000 or 1.73% between 2021 and 2022 and is projected to grow 1.5% annually over the next five years. Houston’s racial diversity is nearly twice as high as the national average, with more than 90 different nations represented. Houston has 94 consulates, the third-largest consular corps in the nation after New York and Los Angeles.

Houston’s unemployment rate and job growth continue to make huge improvements, with employment surpassing pre-pandemic highs in April of 2022 and unemployment continuing to decrease to 3.9 percent in December 2022.

The U.S. and North American rig count has improved but is about half the historical counts. In addition, due to recent
recession fears and the accompanying “Demand Destruction” narrative, West Texas Intermediary (WTI) crude prices have decreased from recent highs set in the year’s first quarter. Nonetheless, supply-side constraints remain as the war in Ukraine continues and draw-downs in the U.S. Special Petroleum Reserve (SPR) continue. Inversely, the recent reopening of China has fostered demand-side concerns. Due to these existing supply and demand imbalances and concerns surrounding overall production capacity, long-term energy prices are expected to remain elevated. WTI crude is forecasted to remain in the $80-$90/b range during 2023.

Natural gas prices surged to $9.30 during August 2022, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), prices not seen since hitting a historical high of $13.67 in October 2005. As of December 2022, the price has dropped ed in this report. to $5.53. The EIA projects natural gas prices will fall 25% in 2023 and then remain flat in 2024.

Airport traffic in Houston rose meaningfully year-over-year, with total passengers and total air cargo increasing 31.7% and 8.6% respectively.

In 2021, easing state-wide Covid-19 restrictions spurred a steady recovery in Houston’s GDP. Subsequently, strong oil price performance and continued positive net migration (Texas ranked #1 on the U-Haul Growth Index for the second straight year) are expected to further increase Houston’s GDP in 2023. Houston’s Real GDP grew by 3.93% in 2022 up from 3.48% in 2021 and 1.91% in 2020.

 Economic Indicators
    YE 2020   YE 2021 YE 2022   
   Unemployment Rate  7.7    4.8   3.9  
   Job Growth - annual % change in employment -6.5   5.1   5.6  
   WTI Spot Price $47.02   $71.71   $78.40  
   Henry Hub Natural Gas Spot Price $2.59   $3.76   $5.53  
   Houston MSA GDP $488.2B   $463.2B   $481.4B  
   10-Yr Treasury Rate  0.89%    1.45%    3.198%  






Executive Summary

Commentary by Patrick Duffy | President, Houston

“Give me a one-handed Economist. All my economists say, ‘on the hand,’ then ‘but on the other” - Harry Truman.

“The stock market has predicted 9 of the past five recessions” – Paul Samuelson, Keynesian economist.

The current environment would have Mr. Truman thinking he had an octopus for his chief economist and Samuelson raising his number to 14 of the last five recessions.

We made a couple of predictions last year, with the core of our position being that Houston was on track to recover all the jobs lost during the Covid lock-downs entirely. Further, the commercial real estate market, primarily industrial and retail assets, even the badly wounded office sector, would continue to improve. The most recent data from the Greater Houston Partnership and the Texas Workforce Commission shows that at the end of 2022, Houston had record employment of over 3.3 million jobs, with a projection that the growth would continue through the first half of 2023.

The results for all three of the major commercial real estate sectors for 2022 were very positive, even the office sector showing some new signs of life in absorption, occupancy and rent growth. However, in late 2022, the rapidly rising interest rate environment dampened investment sales as buyer yield requirements and debt costs increased. In addition, interest rate increases also affected the single-family development market, with many national subdivision developers and homebuilders dropping contracts on bulk land in fear of a major slowdown of single-family home sales, which has occurred. As a result, the latest data on existing home sales was down to just over 4 MM in December versus over 6 MM in December 2021.

While there seems to be a great deal of disagreement about the severity of a downturn in 2023, there is a strong consensus that the global economy will slow considerably. Many regions will experience a hard landing recession, some will be less difficult, and some pockets may avoid a recession entirely. The octopus would agree. Rather than joining the cacophony of opinions on a global or national scale, we will focus on our backyard economics here in Southeast Texas.

The economic outlook for Houston, much as we experienced in the “Great Recession,” is decidedly more positive than most cities in the U.S. We have many growth engines running smoothly and should continue to show strength in 2023.

Oil and Gas / Energy Sector – Energy companies are doing very well with relatively high oil and gas prices and the most recent survey by the Dallas Fed indicated that over 85% of oil and gas companies expected to hold or increase their capital spending in 2023, with over 64% showing increased capital spending planned. This sector significantly impacts the Houston economy as the Energy Capital of the World.

Population Growth – Texas is the number one state for relocations based on the U-Haul destination report, with Florida in a close second. The Greater Houston area has experienced solid and steady growth of approximately 70k new residents (net) for the past three years with no signs of slowing down. Population growth drives many other sectors of the local economy.

Healthcare – The healthcare sector nationally has been strong throughout the past couple of years and the industry is solid in Houston. There are no signs of this trend abating in 2023.

Port of Houston – The port system in SE Texas, including the Port of Houston, has seen solid increases in traffic, especially container traffic, up nearly 20% from 2021 to 2022. The long-term shift in logistics strategy from the west coast ports to the Gulf of Mexico ports that we have referenced over the past two years has gained momentum and is expected to continue for the next decade.

Construction – New construction awards in 2022 were up 25% in 2022 vs 2021, with contractors reporting solid pipelines in place for 2023. High interest rates, tighter lending standards by banks and higher yield requirements for investors have made speculative development extremely difficult and we expect that to cool substantially in the near term. Still, the construction economic engine is in good shape for most of the coming year due to existing commitments.

Retail – The retail economy, including restaurants and bars, continues to expand as our local population grows and the job market remains strong. Most operators still report a very tight labor market in the service sector, but expansion and the introduction of new and exciting concepts will continue in 2023. We have seen only acceleration out of the national brands that Colliers represents in Houston.

So, what does our octopus tell us? While Houston may slow like the rest of the country, we have a strong case for no local recession or at worst a shallow and quick recession. Specifically, in the commercial real estate space, we expect a slowdown in absorption in most sectors. Companies are dealing with increased costs of capital, a broader slowdown nationally and globally, and adjusting their planning (or at least delaying their execution) until the direction of the national and global economy, inflation and interest rates become clearer. Investment sales will be sluggish until we have some degree of confidence that the interest rate and yield requirement increases have stopped and probably ticked down a bit before that sector sees robust volumes again.

We are cautiously optimistic for Houston and Southeast Texas. But on the other hand…..

Market Employment

Houston’s employment sector gained 176,000 jobs annually in 2022, an increase of 5.6%. According to the Texas Workforce Commission, the unemployment rate decreased from 4.8% in December 2021 to 3.9% in December 2022. Houston's industry sectors that posted the largest annual gains include Leisure and Hospitality (15.8%), Mining and Logging (12.4%) and Wholesale Trade (8.7%). Looking ahead, Houston's job growth is expected to increases 4.5% between 2021 and 2026.

Houston is home to 24 Fortune 500 companies with another 17 on the Fortune 1000 list. A partial list of Houston's largest employers is listed below. 

 Houston’s Largest Employers
  2022_HEO_Chevron    2022_HEO_Amazon     2022_HEO_HEB     2022_HEO_NASA    2022_HEO_Phillips66   
  2022_HEO_BMC     2022_HEO_Exxon     2022_HEO_HAL_original    2022_HEO_Shell     2022_HEO_Methodist  
   2022_HEO_Oxy    2022_HEO_sysco   2022_HEO_PlainsGPHoldings     2022_HEO_enterpriseproductspartners   2022_HEO_MD Anderson   
   2022_HEO_Memorial Hermann    2022_HEO_Walmart    2022_HEO_Baker Hughes    2022_HEO_GrocersSupply   2022_HEO_kindermorgan   
  2022_HEO_hewlettpackard     2022_HEO_wastemanagement    2022_HEO_schlumberger    2022_HEO_ChicagoBridgeIron    2022_HEO_UnitedAirlines  



Houston's Major Industries

  2022_HEO_Houston Ship Channel  

The Houston Ship Channel complex and its more than 200 public and private terminals, collectively known as the Port of Houston, is the nation’s largest port for waterborne tonnage and an essential economic engine for the Houston region, the state of Texas and the U.S. The Port of Houston supports the creation of nearly 1.35 million jobs in Texas and 3.2 million jobs nationwide. Economic activity totals $339 billion in Texas, which is 20.6 percent of Texas’ total gross domestic product (GDP) – and $801.9 billion in economic impact across the nation.

  2022_HEO_Houston Energy Capital  

Houston is the Energy Capital of the World and is home to more than 4,000+ firms in the region with more than 40% of the nation’s base manufacturing petrochemical capacity. Houston has hosted the Offshore Technology Conference every year since 1969. The conference brings together professionals to exchange ideas to advance scientific and technical knowledge for offshore resources and environmental matters.

  2022_HEO_Houston Airport System  

Houston’s airport system consists of 3 airports, supports more than 190,000 regional jobs and contributes more than $36.4 billion to the local economy. The airport system served more than 45M passengers in 2021, almost double the 22.3M served in 2020, but still below the annual average of 60M. As of the 12 months ending in October 2022, Houston's Airport System served more than 53.4 million passengers.



The Texas Medical Center (TMC), the World’s Largest Medical Complex (1,345 acres) consists of 61 member institutions. TMC’s workforce consists of more than 106K employees. The TMC sees 8M+ patients annually including 16K international patients. In 2021 the TMC began construction on the world’s largest life science campus, the 37-acre TMC3. This massive expansion is slated for completion in 2023 and is expected to bring over 23,000 permanent new jobs to Harris County.

  2022_HEO_NASA Johnson Space Center  

NASA’s Johnson Space Center resides on a 1,700-acre campus and employs around 11K. Major employers within the complex include some notable companies such as The Boeing Company, Lockheed Martin and Jacobs Engineering.

Ellington Airport began construction on the 153-acre Phase 1 Houston Spaceport in 2019 and continues to expand in 2023. Recently Collins Aerospace, Intuitive Machines and Axiom Space announced plans to build facilities in the development.

20222023_Economic Outlook_SearchResultImage_1024x972

Houston Economic Outlook | 2022 - 2023

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Related Experts

William Uhalt

Research Analyst | Houston


William works alongside the Colliers research team as a research analyst.  He is responsible for maintaining internal databases and directly supporting the industrial, office, retail and multifamily brokerage divisions. William also provides in-depth market analysis on an as-needed basis for individual properties and regional locations.  In addition, William helps track local market conditions to assist in the quarterly reporting process.  Beyond that, he helps to integrate various SaaS platforms with existing internal databases to further aid brokers and drive efficiencies. 

William earned Commercial Property Research Certification (CPRC) from Colliers University. CPRC is the first and only accreditation for commercial real estate research professionals. It offers a professional development path to increase strategic and tactical expertise in research, knowledge of the industry and capabilities with commercial real estate tools.

Prior to joining Colliers, William earned his BBA with a concentration in real estate from The George Washington University and spent time learning the property management side of the business through an internship at Hines in Washington, D.C. 

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Chadd Bolding

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Chadd Bolding is an accomplished commercial real estate broker with nearly 20 years of real estate experience ranging from leasing, acquisition, disposition, off-market site selection and development.  He is the author of several articles on the outlook of Houston’s real estate market and has been quoted in leading publications including Globe Street and Commercial Gateway and most recognized by the Houston Business Journal for closing one of Houston’s larges transactions for 2016.  One of Chadd’s defining qualities is his unrelenting persistence and passion to deliver measurable results to the shareholders.

Chadd's real estate experience spans from office and retail leasing to work with regional and national developers on projects ranging from single-tenant NNN built-to-suits to a 900 acre master planned golf course community.  Before joining the real estate community, he had a 10 year career in sales; spanning from door-to-door sales in college to a sales and management role for a national manufacturer/retailer.  His background in sales helps in identifying hidden opportunities and cost saving solutions while forging lasting relationships with his clients.

Outside of the office, Chadd sits on the advisory board for CCIM and partners with Living Water International, leading teams to Central America to provide a fresh water source for those in need.  Chadd’s other hobbies include building hardwood furniture, competitive motorsport racing and cycling.

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Greg Cizik

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Mr. Cizik has been involved in the construction, development, financing and brokerage of real estate for over thirty years; specializing since 1997 in office tenant representation and income property sales. With Colliers for more than 22 years, Mr. Cizik is both a Principal and Director, and has served multiple terms on the firm’s Governance Committee.

Prior to Colliers, Mr. Cizik was Vice President of Development for The Koll Company located in Newport Beach, CA (now KBS Realty Advisors), where he was responsible for the development and management of major multi-use commercial, residential and golf course projects.  During the 1980’s, Mr. Cizik served as Vice President of Commonwealth Mortgage and later became the owner of a residential and commercial construction company. 

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