Friday, January 30, 2009

And Houston Joins the Fray

Make no mistake the Houston economy is still the exception in this nation, but that does not mean it is immune to the economic downturn.

This week's news that oil services firm Baker Hughes is laying off 1500 jobs worldwide and 200 jobs in Houston is unwelcome news and hopefully not a harbinger of things to come. It is a chilling headline.

As we have discussed here several times, there can be no broad economic turnaround without a) a stop in job losses, and b) net new jobs creation.

Today's headline from The Labor Department is that continued jobless claims are now at their highest peak ever since the data collection began in 1967. Continued jobless claims are people who continue their claims after an initial week, and the data is from the week ending January 17th, and stands at 4.776 million people nationwide.

However, it is important to note that continued jobless claims is more or less an indicator of current economic conditions and not a strong indicator of a longer trend - that's the silver lining I think.

Not All Bleak in Houston
Meanwhile, back in Houston, encouraging news still persists in the mix. Shell announced it has no layoff plans despite a weak 4th Quarter. Chevron is keeping its capital spending levels steady. Continental Airlines posts a loss, but beats analyst estimates. And huge Houston car-dealer AutoNation, which owns several area dealerships including BMW, Mercedes, Acura, Hyundai, GM, Ford, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Chrysler, and Toyota, has announced despite an historic challenging economic climate it nonetheless has booked a profit.

And on that note, I need to go pick up my car from the repair shop of a nearby AutoNation-owned dealership. I'm doing my part for the Houston economy, or at least my car is.