I'm Taking Texas Jobs Report with a Grain of Salt

By Steve Brown

DALLAS – The latest job growth numbers for Texas provided some cheer during this current season of economic discontent.

More than 23,000 jobs were created in the state during October. In Dallas-Fort Worth, employment has grown by about 50,000 jobs from a year ago.

That's great news. My problem is I don't believe it.

I look around and see stores closing, restaurants shutting down and employers downsizing. So I wonder, where are these 50,000 new jobs?

I fear they're just on paper. That's certainly been the case before.

In 2001, during the last economic shakeout, the job counters overstated employment gains here by more than 80,000 workers. All it took was one revision of the numbers to move D-FW from the top employment market in the country to a record decline in jobs for that year.

Oops.

Embarrassed employment economists explained that when the economy is rapidly decelerating, it's tough for them to get a handle on how many jobs are being added or taken away.

Fair enough. But that's why I'm leery.

Overstated job growth would also explain why we aren't seeing greater demand for real estate such as offices, apartments and such. It takes employment expansion to soak up empty properties.

The economists I talk to are still somewhat optimistic about the local job market. But they concede that the most recent job numbers seem a tad inflated.

"I would expect that the October employment figure will be revised, and that the third quarter could possibly be revised down," said D'Ann Petersen, a business economist with the Dallas Fed.

"That would be in line with our anecdotal reports.

"Even before those possible revisions, we have definitely seen a slowdown in job growth both at the state level and in Dallas-Fort Worth," Ms. Petersen said.

Hillcrest project

Motorists trying to get through the busy intersection of Northwest Highway and Hillcrest Road have something to look at besides all those brake lights. Construction is progressing on a three-story office and retail building on the northwest corner that replaces a collection of old retail buildings.

Called Hillcrest Crossing, the development by PRG Realty will open in the first half of 2009.

So far, the brick-and-glass building is about 60 percent leased to tenants including Capital One Bank, Equinox Fitness Club, Paradise Bakery and Toni & Guy salon.

Dallas architects O'Brien & Associates Inc. designed the project.

Eastside complex

Developers and city officials in Richardson will hold a grand opening Dec. 10 for the Eastside complex at North Central Expressway and Campbell Road. The project, which surrounds Eastside Green park, will have 80,000 square feet of retail, 200,000 square feet of office space and 435 apartment homes.

Post Properties, Greenway Investments and Skyrise Properties are finishing work on the project, which has been under construction since 2006.

About 100 residents have moved into the apartments, and businesses in the shopping space include Panera, Boudreaux's, Jersey Mike's and Frost Bank.