Glenn Hegar
Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts
Glenn Hegar
Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts
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Glenn Hegar
Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts
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The Northwest Region2018 Regional Report

Northwest Region Snapshot

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The 30-county Northwest Region covers about 27,600 square miles in northern Texas, stretching from Oklahoma on the north to the Colorado River on the south, and abutting Big Spring on the west and the Fort Worth metro on the east. The region has a population density of 20 people per square mile, making it significantly less dense than the state average of 108 people per square mile.

The Northwest Region includes two metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs): the Abilene MSA, comprising the counties of Callahan, Jones and Taylor, and the Wichita Falls MSA, comprising the counties of Archer, Clay and Wichita. Counties in the region not associated with an MSA are Baylor, Brown, Coleman, Comanche, Cottle, Eastland, Fisher, Foard, Hardeman, Haskell, Jack, Kent, Knox, Mitchell, Montague, Nolan, Runnels, Scurry, Shackelford, Stephens, Stonewall, Throckmorton, Wilbarger and Young. The economic center, or focus area, of the Northwest Region is the city of Abilene (Taylor County). The Abilene MSA has a population of about 170,000.

This report examines regional economic trends including population, personal income, jobs and wages and education, as well as economic conditions unique to the Northwest Region.


The Northwest Region’s estimated total population in 2017 was about 549,000, or nearly 2 percent of the state’s total population. Population in this region has remained stable since the 2010 census. Taylor and Wichita counties both contain an estimated 24 percent of the region’s population. The Abilene MSA (which includes Taylor County) accounted for 31 percent of the region’s population and slightly less than 1 percent of the state’s population.

The region’s stable population growth from 2010 to 2017 is in contrast to the state, which saw more than 12 percent growth (Exhibit 1). While the population in each county in the region had some change during this period, Taylor outpaced all others, growing by more than 3.6 percent.

Exhibit 1: Northwest Region Population by County,
2010 and 2017
County 2010 Census Estimate (as of July 2017) Percent Change
Archer 9,054 8,809 -2.7%
Baylor 3,726 3,581 -3.9%
Brown 38,106 38,053 -0.1%
Callahan 13,544 13,946 3.0%
Clay 10,752 10,421 -3.1%
Coleman 8,895 8,430 -5.2%
Comanche 13,974 13,573 -2.9%
Cottle 1,505 1,387 -7.8%
Eastland 18,583 18,411 -0.9%
Fisher 3,974 3,880 -2.4%
Foard 1,336 1,222 -8.5%
Hardeman 4,139 3,994 -3.5%
Haskell 5,899 5,746 -2.6%
Jack 9,044 8,832 -2.3%
Jones 20,202 19,983 -1.1%
Kent 808 763 -5.6%
Knox 3,719 3,710 -0.2%
Mitchell 9,403 8,468 -9.9%
Montague 19,719 19,539 -0.9%
Nolan 15,216 14,770 -2.9%
Runnels 10,501 10,266 -2.2%
Scurry 16,921 17,050 0.8%
Shackelford 3,378 3,328 -1.5%
Stephens 9,630 9,337 -3.0%
Stonewall 1,490 1,388 -6.8%
Taylor 131,506 136,290 3.6%
Throckmorton 1,641 1,527 -6.9%
Wichita 131,500 132,000 0.4%
Wilbarger 13,535 12,764 -5.7%
Young 18,550 17,979 -3.1%
Northwest Region Total 550,250 549,447 -0.2%
Abilene MSA 165,252 170,219 3.0%
Texas Total 25,145,561 28,304,596 12.6%

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Population Composition

According to a recent Census analysis, the median age for the Northwest Region’s counties is significantly older than the state as a whole. Twenty-six of the region’s 30 counties have a median age significantly higher than the state’s median age of 34.2 years, with Throckmorton residents having a median age exceeding 51 years, older than any other county in the region and one of the oldest in the state. The Abilene MSA had a median age on par with the state.

Household income in Texas is more or less evenly distributed among five income levels. Of the more than 9 million households within the state of Texas, 22 percent have incomes less than $25,000 and 16 percent have incomes greater than $125,000. In every region in the state, nearly 18 percent of households have an average income between $50,000 and $75,000. Household income in the Northwest Region was significantly lower than the state average. Only 26.4 percent of the region’s households have income exceeding $75,000 versus 36.3 percent for the state, indicating potentially less household wealth than the state average (Exhibit 2).

Approximately 21.5 percent of the Northwest Region’s total population is Hispanic – more than 17 percentage points lower than Hispanics' 38.6 percent share of the state population (Exhibit 3).

Exhibit 2: Northwest Region and Texas Household Income

Exhibit 2: Household Income Percentile, Northwest Region vs. Texas
Income Level Northwest Region State Total
less than $25,000 27.5% 22.2%
$25,000 to $50,000 27.2% 23.6%
$50,000 to $75,000 18.9% 17.8%
$75,000 to $125,000 17.7% 20.2%
more than $125,000 8.7% 16.1%

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Exhibit 3: Northwest Region and Texas Population by Race and Ethnicity

Population by Race and Ethnicity, Northwest Region vs. Texas
Race and Ethnicity Northwest Region State Total
Hispanic 21.5% 38.6%
Black (not Hispanic) 6.3% 11.6%
White (not Hispanic) 68.9% 43.4%
Other 3.4% 6.3%

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Jobs and Wages

In 2017, the Northwest Region accounted for approximately 2 percent of the state’s total employment. While the region’s employment decreased slightly from 2007 to 2017, employment in the Abilene MSA increased nearly 4 percent over the same period (Exhibit 4). About 33 percent of the region’s total jobs are in the Abilene MSA.

Exhibit 4: Northwest Region Employment, 2007 to 2017
Area Number of Jobs, 2017 Change in Jobs from 2007 Percent Change
Abilene MSA 66,251 2,442 3.8%
Northwest Region, Total 203,114 -1,514 -0.7%
Texas 12,011,078 1,779,177 17.4%
United States 143,860,846 8,495,037 6.3%

Note: The above figures include private and public sector employees with the exception of active duty military personnel, railroad employees, religious institution employees and the self-employed.

Sources: JobsEQ and Bureau of Labor Statistics

The average wage in the Northwest Region was $39,804 in 2017, well below the state and national averages. However, from 2007 to 2017, individual wage growth in the region outpaced individual wage growth at the state and national levels during the same period (Exhibit 5).

Adjusted for inflation, individual wages in the Northwest Region increased nearly 8 percent during this period. Within the region, the Abilene MSA average wage was slightly higher than the region as was the wage growth rate from 2007 to 2017.

Exhibit 5: Northwest Region Wage Trends, 2007 to 2017
Area Average Wage, 2017 Change in Wages from 2007 Nominal Rate of Change, 2007 to 2017 Real Rate of Change,* 2007 to 2017
Abilene MSA $40,325 $8,757 27.7% 8.1%
Northwest Region, Total $39,804 $8,521 27.2% 7.6%
Texas $55,801 $11,106 24.9% 5.6%
United States $55,375 $10,917 24.6% 5.4%

* The constant or “real” rate adjusts average wages for the effects of inflation in the value of a particular base year. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, prices in 2017 are 18.22 percent higher than prices in 2007.

Sources: JobsEQ and Bureau of Labor Statistics

Industry Concentration

Exhibit 6 lists the Northwest Region industry subsectors most highly concentrated according to location quotient (LQ) — a measure of how concentrated an industry is in the region relative to the nation — and by share of total state jobs in each subsector. Industries are described according to the federal government’s North American Industry Classification System (NAICS), which is used by federal statistical agencies to classify business establishments.

The Northwest Region’s most highly concentrated industries primarily center around the petroleum industry, from extraction to retail sales. The region’s third most highly concentrated industry subsector – oil and gas extraction – is also among the region’s highest paying sectors. This subsector’s individual wages increased by about 21 percent from 2007-2017, with an average salary of more than $89,500 in 2017.

Exhibit 6: Northwest Region’s Most Highly Concentrated Industries, 2007 to 2017
Industry Description (NAICS1) Job Concentration Job Trends Wage Trends
Location Quotient2 Share of State's Jobs Number of Jobs Change, 2007 to 2017 Average Wage Nominal Rate3 of Change Real Rate3 of Change, 2007 to 2017
Rail Transportation (482) 22.24 43.2% 32 N/A $28,122 N/A N/A
Support Activities for Mining (213) 13.15 4.3% 5,742 -7.9% $68,134 32.0% 11.7%
Oil and Gas Extraction (211) 8.92 2.5% 1,899 -9.0% $89,539 42.7% 20.7%
Leather and Allied Product Manufacturing (316) 5.61 5.5% 234 78.9% $25,108 55.9% 31.8%
Pipeline Transportation (486) 4.53 1.8% 338 113.5% $88,150 23.1% 4.1%
Animal Production and Aquaculture (112) 4.05 6.2% 1,579 -1.9% $33,587 51.5% 28.1%
Nonmetallic Mineral Product Manufacturing (327) 4.02 6.4% 2,439 -31.7% $52,466 11.4% -5.8%
Justice, Public Order and Safety Activities (922) 2.47 3.1% 6,918 -0.7% $46,340 29.3% 9.4%
Gasoline Stations (447) 2.08 3.3% 2,880 4.3% $22,732 52.9% 29.3%
National Security and International Affairs (928) 1.87 4.9% 1,599 -2.0% $60,792 12.2% -5.1%
Northwest Region - 1.7% 203,114 -0.7% $39,804 27.2% 7.6%

Note: The figures above include private and public sector employees with the exception of active duty military personnel, railroad employees, religious institution employees and the self-employed.

  1. NAICS codes are the standard used by federal statistical agencies in classifying business establishments for the purpose of collecting, analyzing and publishing statistical data related to the U.S. business economy.
  2. The higher the location quotient, the more concentrated the industry subsector is in the region compared to nation.
  3. The constant or “real” rate adjusts average wages for the effects of inflation in the value of a particular base year. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, prices in 2017 were 18.22 percent higher than prices in 2007.

Sources: JobsEQ and Bureau of Labor Statistics


A strong educational foundation is the cornerstone for growth and competitiveness in the global economy. As the Texas economy diversifies, becoming more knowledge based, a well-educated workforce offers possibilities for workplace advancement and prospects for business expansion.

In 2016, 92.9 percent of the Northwest Region’s class of public high school students graduated, higher than the state’s rate of 89.1 percent (Exhibit 7). The region’s high school graduation rate has increased almost 6.5 percent since 2010 and has consistently outperformed the state average.

Many high school graduates enroll in postsecondary programs, offering greater job prospects and the possibility to of earning higher wages. Residents of the Northwest Region enjoy a variety of options for higher educational achievement (Exhibit 8).

Exhibit 7: Northwest Region and Texas Public High School Graduation Rates, 2010 to 2016
Year Northwest Texas
2010 86.2% 84.3%
2011 92.8% 85.9%
2012 93.6% 87.7%
2013 92.1% 88.0%
2014 90.7% 88.3%
2015 92.1% 89.0%
2016 92.9% 89.1%

Source: Texas Education Agency

Exhibit 8: Northwest Region Institutions of Higher Education, 2017


  • Abilene Christian University
  • Hardin-Simmons University
  • Howard Payne University
  • McMurry University
  • Midwestern State University

Junior and Community Colleges

  • Cisco College
  • Ranger College
  • Southwest Collegiate Institute for the Deaf
  • Texas State Technical College – West Texas
  • Vernon College
  • Western Texas College

Source: Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board

Regional Economy

The Comptroller's office has analyzed data pertaining to the Northwest Region, examining the region’s dynamics and competitiveness.

Sales Tax Revenue

Sales receipts subject to state sales tax directly attributable to the Northwest Region trended slightly upward but fluctuated around the trend line in the past decade (trend lines depict trends in data – either upward, downward or flat – for an extended period of time). Receipts from 2017 continue that fluctuation but in an upward manner (Exhibit 9).

For 2017, receipts subject to state sales tax directly attributed to businesses in the Northwest Region approached $5.5 billion, contributing about 1.1 percent to the state’s overall sales tax revenue collections. The Abilene MSA directly accounted for $1.9 billion of this total.

A review of two-digit NAICS codes allows for a broad analysis of industry sectors within the region. The retail trade and food services and accommodation sectors contributed most to taxable sales, combining for more than 67 percent of the region’s state sales tax collections. Two other industries of note are the wholesale trade and mining sectors, combining for 15 percent of the region’s reported sales tax collections.

Exhibit 9: Revenue Subject to Sales Tax, 2007 to 2017
Year Northwest Region
2007 $5,306,497,917
2008 $5,266,046,250
2009 $4,493,006,016
2010 $5,088,183,888
2011 $5,589,162,530
2012 $5,839,276,169
2013 $5,787,644,697
2014 $6,330,946,563
2015 $5,686,812,383
2016 $5,079,445,566
2017 $5,475,828,715

Note: Numbers shown are for reported revenue subject to sales tax and directly attributed to the region.

Source: Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts

U.S. Military Installation Impact

Texas has 13 U.S. military installations within its borders. In 2017, these bases directly employed more than 224,000 and supported nearly 625,000 jobs. The U.S. military installations in Texas contributed about $62.3 billion to the state’s gross domestic product (GDP).

U.S. military installations within the Northwest Region have a positive impact on the Texas economy (Exhibit 10), supporting an estimated 39,000 jobs and contributing about $4 billion to the state’s GDP.

Exhibit 10: Estimated U.S. Military Impact on the Northwest Region, 2017
Region Total Jobs Supported U.S. Military Contribution to State GDP
State of Texas 624,690 $62.3 billion
Northwest Region 39,145 $4.0 billion

Sources: Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, TMPC, REMI

Northwest Region vs. the U.S.

Based on data from the World Bank and the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, if Texas were a nation, it would rank as the world’s 10th largest economy in terms of GDP. Exhibit 11 shows how the region ranks with other states and the nation on a number of demographic and economic measures. The Northwest Region would be the 41st largest state in terms of land mass (square miles) and have the 51st largest population. The region would also have the 21st lowest unemployment rate in 2017.

Exhibit 11: Northwest Region Compared to the U.S.
Measure Northwest Region Rank if Region
was a State
Texas State Rank U.S.
Population 549,447 51 28,304,596 2 325,719,178
Population age 25+ with at least a high school diploma 83.8% 48 82.4% 49 87.0%
Population age 25+ with bachelor’s degree or higher 19.2% 51 28.1% 29 30.3%
Population under 18 years 22.9% 20 26.0% 2 22.6%
Population 65 years and over 17.2% 11 12.3% 48 15.7%
Age dependency ratio* 67.0% 45 62.1% 20 61.9%
Per capita income $41,434 41 $46,204 25 $49,204
Unemployment rate 3.8% 21 4.3% 26 4.4%

* The age dependency ratio is the share of dependent-age persons compared to the working-age population minus the sum of those under 18 years and 65 and older divided by the population age 18 to 64. In other words, for every 100 working-age people in Texas there are about 62 dependent-age people.

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis


The Northwest Region and its 30 counties have unique economic variables and challenges. The region’s population is significantly older than the state as a whole and is less diverse, with the lowest percentage of minority groups. Population growth has been stable since 2010. The region experienced job losses from 2007 to 2017; however, individual wages have increased at a rate higher than the state as a whole. The high school graduation rate has increased almost 6.5 percent since 2010, consistently outperforming the rest of the state. The region’s receipts subject to state sales tax have had a positive upward trend following the 2009 recession, with a peak in 2014. Sales tax receipts from 2017 indicate this regional economy is regaining momentum.


If you have any questions or concerns regarding the material on this page, please contact the Comptroller’s Data Analysis and Transparency Division.