The brutal storm pummeling the Houston area is putting the brakes, at least for a time, on the area’s recent economic upswing. And the impact is quite likely to be especially deep given the crucial role the region plays in the nation’s energy, chemical and shipping industries.
Despite wobbly oil prices, local job growth has accelerated, along with continued improvement in home sales and construction. The number of Texas oil rigs has been rising over the past year, giving a big lift to exploration and chemical manufacturing jobs. Now, however, the Houston area could sustain billions to tens of billions in lost economic activity.
Those losses will be seen in homes not purchased, sales not closed, gas not bought or shipped. Hundreds of thousands are without power, and there will be lost wages from people whose employers are shut down or who can’t get to work.
The Gulf Coast of Texas — including Houston and the surrounding areas — is one of the nation’s economic powerhouses, accounting for roughly $600 billion in economic activity, according to the Perryman Group, an economic analysis firm in Waco, Tex.
“The Gulf Coast ports are critical to the U.S. supply chain, and the refined petroleum and petrochemical production is critical to the U.S. economy,” said Ray Perryman, the company’s chief executive. “It does not appear that any major capacity was seriously damaged, but even a shutdown of a few weeks can affect U.S. economic performance.”