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Austin Texas 2008 Economic Forecast

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The economic outlook for Austin generally mirrors the Texas forecast: local job and population growth outperforms the national economy. The Texas Workforce Commission predicts 3.1% job growth, while local economist Angelos Angelou predicts 2.3%. The unemployment rate for December 2007 was estimated at 3.6%, down from 5.1% in the Austin area during October 2006.

Austin population growth is driven by the high quality of life in the region, with the area being ranked as the top destination for relocating singles and families by several publications. Also, MSN recently ranked Austin as "The Greenest City in America," continuing a string of "best of" for the city. Located on the Interstate 35 Corridor, the city has grown in population the 3rd fastest in America this decade, with Ft. Worth first and San Antonio fourth, according to data from the U.S Census Bureau. Population growth of 42,000 is projected for 2008, down from a high of about 60,000 experienced in 2006, according to the Austin-American Statesman.

Demand in the local real estate market is down as compared to 2006 but is still positive, with generally more houses on the market. Angelou predicts that if local homebuilders react to negative national trends, housing starts in Austin will fall while the local market is still healthy and homes are still in demand, which would then create a low inventory of new homes for sale. The result, he predicts, would be an increase in demand for rental housing such as apartments and result in a spike in rental prices.

Another indicator of the local real estate market is how much work property inspectors are doing, since their work is usually in demand when real property changes hands. According to my survey of inspectors, most say their number of inspections has dropped more than 50% since September 2007. Many did say, however, that the drop could be seasonal and that demand for their service should increase by May 2008.

Most job growth should appear in Austin's traditional strong areas, like government, education, and health services. As the state capital and seat of Travis County, local, state, and federal government employs more than 150,000 workers, and that's expected to increase, according to Texas A & M's Real Estate Center. As an education hub, with the University of Texas and more than 20 other colleges within 30 miles, and several large public school districts, Austin will need more education workers. The "Live Music Capital of the World" continues to employ many in the leisure and hospitality industry, and large healthcare employers like Seton and St. David's are expected to add workers.

With the quality of life high and the population continuing to increase, Austin should see positive job growth through 2009.
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