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Glenn Hegar
Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts
Glenn Hegar
Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts
Glenn Hegar
Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts

economy

The Gulf Coast Region2020 Regional Report

This analysis predates the COVID-19 crisis and the economic impacts that followed. It is offered as an overview of the Gulf Coast regional economy and a resource for comparative purposes.

The 13-county Gulf Coast region covers about 13,900 square miles in eastern coastal Texas, stretching from Huntsville on the north to Matagorda Bay and Galveston along the Gulf Coast.

The Gulf Coast region includes one metropolitan statistical area (MSA), the Houston-The Woodlands-Sugarland MSA, which includes the counties of Austin, Brazoria, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris, Liberty, Montgomery and Waller. Counties in the region not associated with an MSA include Colorado, Matagorda, Walker and Wharton counties. The region’s economic center is the city of Houston in Harris County.

This report examines regional economic trends including population, household income, jobs and wages, and education, as well as economic conditions unique to the Gulf Coast region.

Population

In 2019, the Gulf Coast region’s estimated total population was more than 7 million, or 25 percent of the state’s total population. This represented an increase of about 19 percent (more than 1 million people) since the 2010 Census. An estimated 65 percent of the region’s population is concentrated in Harris County. While the Houston-The Woodlands-Sugarland MSA accounted for almost 98 percent of the region’s population, the city of Houston alone accounted for 32 percent of the region’s population (and more than 8 percent of the state population).

From 2010 to 2019, the region’s population grew at a faster pace than that of the state as a whole (Exhibit 1). While the population of most counties in the region increased during this period, Fort Bend outpaced all others, growing by more than 38 percent — more than twice the rate of the state.

Exhibit 1
Gulf Coast Region Population by County, 2010 and 2019
County 2010 Census Estimate
(as of July 2019)
Change 2010 to 2019 Percent Change
Austin 28,417 30,032 1,615 5.7%
Brazoria 313,166 374,264 61,098 19.5%
Chambers 35,096 43,837 8,741 24.9%
Colorado 20,874 21,493 619 3.0%
Fort Bend 585,375 811,688 226,313 38.7%
Galveston 291,309 342,139 50,830 17.4%
Harris 4,092,459 4,713,325 620,866 15.2%
Liberty 75,643 88,219 12,576 16.6%
Matagorda 36,702 36,643 -59 -0.2%
Montgomery 455,746 607,391 151,645 33.3%
Walker 67,861 72,971 5,110 7.5%
Waller 43,205 55,246 12,041 27.9%
Wharton 41,280 41,556 276 0.7%
City of Houston 2,099,451 2,320,268 220,817 10.5%
Houston-The Woodlands-Sugarland MSA 5,920,416 7,066,141 1,145,725 19.4%
Gulf Coast Region Total 6,087,133 7,238,804 1,151,671 18.9%
Texas Total 25,145,561 28,995,881 3,850,320 15.3%

Source: U.S. Census Bureau


Population Composition

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2018 American Community Survey, the median age of the region and The Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land MSA both are on par with that of the state as a whole. While six of the region’s 13 counties had a median age significantly higher than the state’s median age of 34.2 years in 2018, its most populous county (Harris County, 32.9 years) is on par with the state, and Waller is one of the state’s “youngest” counties, with a median age of 28.8.

The Gulf Coast region’s total Hispanic population is 36.1 percent, just 2.5 percentage points lower than the state’s 38.6 percent Hispanic share (Exhibit 2). The region’s Black (not Hispanic) population share (16.8 percent) is more than 5 percentage points higher than the state’s (11.6 percent).

Household Income

The Gulf Coast region’s median household income in 2018 was $66,058. Texas’ household income is generally distributed among five income levels (Exhibit 3). Of more than 9 million Texas households, 21 percent had incomes of less than $25,000, while 17 percent had incomes above $125,000. In every region in the state, nearly 18 percent of households had an average income between $50,000 and $75,000. About 40.5 percent of the Gulf Coast region’s households had incomes of less than $50,000, versus about 44 percent of the state’s; the region also had significantly more households with incomes above $125,000 (21.5 percent) than the state.

Exhibit 2
Gulf Coast Region Population by Race and Ethnicity, 2018
Ethnicity Gulf Coast Region State Total
Hispanic 36.1% 38.6%
Black (not Hispanic) 16.8% 11.6%
White (not Hispanic) 38.1% 43.4%
Other 8.9% 6.3%

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Exhibit 3
Gulf Coast Region and Texas Household Income Percentile, 2018
Income Level Gulf Coast Region State Total
less than $25,000 19.1% 21.1%
$25,000 to $50,000 20.8% 23.0%
$50,000 to $75,000 17.2% 17.9%
$75,000 to $125,000 21.4% 20.6%
more than $125,000 19.1% 17.4%

Source: U.S. Census Bureau


Regional Industries

In 2019, the Gulf Coast region accounted for nearly 26 percent of the state’s total employment, making the region the state’s second-largest employment base. Exhibit 4 lists the region’s industries with the greatest regional employment concentrations compared to the national average, as measured by location quotient (LQ). LQ represents an industry’s proportionate concentration in the region; an LQ greater than 1.0 means that industry employment is more concentrated in the region than nationally. A high LQ can identify industries that have a competitive advantage in the region, such as the ability to produce products more efficiently and of a higher quality.

Based on location quotients, the Gulf Coast region is a leader in the oil and gas extraction, pipeline transportation, and space research and technology industries.

Exhibit 4
Top 10 Gulf Coast Region Industries, 2019
Industry LQ Number Employed Average Annual Wages
Oil and Gas Extraction 12.32 37,855 $237,471
Pipeline Transportation 10.63 11,549 $193,332
Space Research and Technology 7.98 2,917 $138,497
Support Activities for Mining 5.63 41,337 $136,289
Petroleum and Coal Products Manufacturing 4.35 10,379 $160,247
Water Transportation 2.63 3,760 $106,045
Heavy and Civil Engineering Construction 2.49 65,413 $82,373
Chemical Manufacturing 2.26 40,662 $137,867
Support Activities for Transportation 2.03 35,138 $67,363
Machinery Manufacturing 2.00 47,752 $99,443
Total - All Industries 0.99 3,089,418 $68,021

Data are as of Q4 2019 except wage data, which are for covered employment in 2018.
Source: JobsEQ


U.S. Military Installation Impact

Texas has 14 U.S. military installations within its borders. In 2019, these bases directly employed more than 226,000 and supported nearly 634,000 jobs in all. They also contributed an estimated $75.3 billion annually to the state’s gross domestic product (GDP) (Exhibit 5). Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base, the only military installation within the Gulf Coast region, supported an estimated 2,300 jobs in 2019 and contributed about $286 million to the state’s GDP.

Exhibit 5
U.S. Military Impact on the Gulf Coast Region
Estimated 2019
Region Total Jobs Supported Contribution to State GDP
Gulf Coast 2,323 $0.3 billion
State of Texas 633,892 $75.3 billion

Sources: Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, Texas Military Preparedness Commission and REMI

Learn more about the impact of U.S. military installations on the state’s economy.


Jobs and Wages

The region’s employment rose by almost 21 percent from 2009 to 2019, outpacing state job growth. Employment in the Houston-The Woodlands-Sugarland MSA also increased more than 20 percent (Exhibit 6). More than 98 percent of the region’s total jobs are in the Houston-The Woodlands-Sugarland MSA.

Exhibit 6
Gulf Coast Region Employment Trends, 2019
Area Number of Jobs (2019) Actual Change (2009 to 2019) Percent Change (2009 to 2019)
Houston-The Woodlands-Sugarland MSA 3,025,426 514,533 20.5%
Gulf Coast Region 3,084,739 517,998 20.9%
Texas 12,531,100 2,284,407 22.3%
United States 147,886,638 17,768,373 13.7%

Note: 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 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics


Significant Regional Occupations

The Gulf Coast region’s most significant occupations are shown in Exhibits 7 and 8, first by location quotient and second by numeric growth during the last five years.

Exhibit 7
Top Occupations in the Gulf Coast Region by Location Quotient, 2014 to 2019
Occupation Number Employed Average Annual Wages LQ Unemployment Rate Five-Year Employment Change
Extraction Workers 23,444 $47,600 4.87 5.6% -8,225
Water Transportation Workers 4,775 $72,300 2.66 4.8% -138
Plant and System Operators 14,077 $64,700 2.13 1.0% -1,495
Supervisors of Construction and Extraction Workers 25,116 $76,100 1.79 3.4% 1,460
Air Transportation Workers 9,711 $111,100 1.65 0.6% -127

Note: Data are as of Q4 2019 except wage data, which are for covered employment in 2018.

Source: JobsEQ


Exhibit 8
Top Occupations in the Gulf Coast Region by Numeric Growth, 2014 to 2019
Occupation Number Employed Average Annual Wages LQ Unemployment Rate Five-Year Employment Change
Food and Beverage Serving Workers 172,191 $23,100 1.05 6.4% 25,174
Other Personal Care and Service Workers 79,010 $22,900 0.85 5.0% 18,124
Construction Trades Workers 160,545 $42,400 1.34 6.3% 16,057
Health Diagnosing and Treating Practitioners 102,161 $104,300 0.85 1.0% 13,840
Business Operations Specialists 96,304 $82,700 0.85 2.9% 12,390

Note: Data are as of Q4 2019 except wage data, which are for covered employment in 2018.
Source: JobsEQ


Education

A strong educational foundation provides a cornerstone for growth and competitiveness in the global economy, offering opportunities for workplace advancement and business expansion.

Wages by Educational Attainment

Post-secondary education delivers a good return on investments of time and tuition. In 2018, the Gulf Coast region’s workers with some college or associate degrees and with stable jobs — defined as those employed with the same firm throughout a calendar quarter — earned an average of $6,408 more annually than those with a high school degree, while those with at least a bachelor’s degree earned an average of $30,328 more (Exhibit 9).

Exhibit 9
Average Annual Earnings by Educational Attainment, Gulf Coast Region and Texas, 2018
Educational Attainment Number Employed, Region Percent of Region Average Annual Earnings, Region Number Employed, Texas Percent of Texas Average Annual Earnings, Texas
Less than High School 516,634 17.40% $43,491 2,065,483 17.10% $42,808
High School or Equivalent, No College 661,979 22.30% $51,093 2,765,759 22.90% $52,035
Some College or Associate Degree 796,592 26.80% $57,501 3,245,675 26.90% $60,428
Bachelor’s Degree or Advanced Degree 648,501 21.80% $81,421 2,454,975 20.30% $95,716
Educational Attainment Unavailable 347,982 11.70% $22,443 1,544,282 12.80% $22,087
Total 2,971,687 $54,377 12,076,174 $58,787

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau and JobsEQ


During the 2017-18 school year, 89.2 percent of the Gulf Coast region’s class of public high school senior students graduated, slightly below the state’s rate of 90 percent (Exhibit 10). While the region’s high school graduation rate has risen since the 2009-10 school year, the last few years have seen the rate slip below the state average.

Exhibit 10
Gulf Coast Region Public High School Graduation Rates, 2009-10 to 2017-18 School Year
Region2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
Gulf Coast 83.9% 85.9% 87.1% 87.8% 88.2% 88.9% 88.5% 89.1% 89.2%
Texas 84.3% 85.9% 87.7% 88.0% 88.3% 89.0% 89.1% 89.7% 90.0%

Sources: Texas Education Agency


Many high school graduates enroll in postsecondary programs, which offer greater job prospects and the possibility of higher wages. Residents of the Gulf Coast region enjoy a variety of options for higher educational achievement (Exhibit 11).

Exhibit 11 Gulf Coast Region Institutions of Higher Education

Universities

  • Houston Baptist University
  • Prairie View A&M University
  • Rice University
  • Sam Houston State University
  • South Texas College of Law Houston
  • Texas Southern University
  • University of Houston
  • University of Houston-Clear Lake
  • University of Houston-Downtown
  • University of St. Thomas

Health Science Schools

  • The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
  • The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston
  • Sam Houston State College of Osteopathic Medicine
  • University of Houston College of Medicine
  • Baylor College of Medicine
  • The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston

Junior and Community Colleges

  • Alvin Community College
  • Brazosport College
  • College of the Mainland Community College District
  • Galveston College
  • Houston Community College - Central Campus
  • Houston Community College - Northeast Campus
  • Houston Community College - Northwest College
  • Houston Community College - Southwest College
  • Lee College
  • Lone Star College - Cy-Fair
  • Lone Star College - Kingwood
  • Lone Star College - Montgomery
  • Lone Star College - North Harris
  • Lone Star College - Tomball
  • Lone Star College - University Park
  • San Jacinto College - Central Campus
  • San Jacinto College - North Campus
  • San Jacinto College - South Campus
  • San Jacinto Community College
  • Texas Chiropractic College
  • Texas State Technical College-Fort Bend
  • Wharton County Junior College

Source: Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board


The region’s numerous community college districts provided technical and academic coursework for more than 196,000 students in the 2017-18 school year (Exhibit 12).

Exhibit 12
Gulf Coast Region Community College Overview, 2017-18 School Year
Community College District Enrollment Awards Average Tuition and Fees Academic Share of Students Enrolled Technical Share of Students Enrolled Enrolled or Employed, Academic* Enrolled or Employed, Technical*
Alvin Community College 5,645 1,288 $1,998 76.9% 23.1% 95.7% 94.5%
Brazosport College 4,304 1,269 $2,715 62.4% 37.6% 96.1% 91.9%
College of the Mainland Community College 4,673 773 $1,773 65.5%  34.5% 90.0% 88.3%
Galveston College 2,423 625 $2,050 68.9% 31.1% 91.4% 96.0%
Houston Community College 48,309 7,056 $2,031 77.9% 22.1% 90.1% 88.6%
Lee College 7,773 3,026 $2,358 60.4% 39.7% 90.7% 83.9%
Lone Star College System 78,244 9,897 $2,150 87.7% 12.3% 90.8% 86.4%
Lone Star College - CyFair 20,536 2,295 $2,150 89.8% 10.2% 91.3% 88.5%
Lone Star College - Kingwood 11,358 1,271 $2,150 86.6% 13.4% 90.0% 82.1%
Lone Star College - Montgomery 13,088 1,568 $2,150 88.4% 11.6% 91.6% 88.0%
Lone Star College - North Harris 13,980 1,991 $2,150 79.2% 20.8% 91.1% 85.9%
Lone Star College - Tomball 7,639 664 $2,150 84.9% 15.1% 88.3% 90.7%
Lone Star College - University Park 11,643 819 $2,150 92.9% 7.1% 91.1% 83.8%
San Jacinto Community College 37,895 7,332 $1,860 72.4% 27.6% 91.7% 81.4%
San Jacinto CCD - Central Campus 15,302 3,372 $1,860 69.2% 30.8% 90.7% 88.3%
San Jacinto CCD - North Campus 10,043 1,927 $1,860 64.9% 35.1% 94.0% 90.4%
San Jacinto CCD - South Campus 12,550 2,193 $1,860 82.6% 17.4% 91.5% 90.8%
Wharton County Junior College 6,768 1,081 $3,110 81.1% 18.9% 92.2% 92.6%

*The percentage of academic or technical graduates employed in the fourth quarter of the calendar year after graduation and/or enrolled in a Texas two- or four-year institution in the following fall after graduation, as specified.

Source: Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board


Community colleges in the Gulf Coast region awarded more than 12,500 certificates and associate degrees in general studies and liberal arts in the 2017-18 school year; the next most-common awards were for health professions, business administration and marketing (Exhibit 13).

Exhibit 13
Top 10 Certificates and Degree Awards in the Gulf Coast Region’s Community Colleges, 2017-18 School Year
Certificates and Degrees Number Awarded
Liberal Arts and Sciences, General Studies and Humanities 12,574
Health Professions and Related Clinical Sciences 7,797
Business, Management, Marketing and Related Support Services 3,974
Personal and Culinary Services 2,599
Skilled Precision Production of Leather Metal or Wood Products 2,246
Mechanic and Repair Technologies/Technicians 2,220
Engineering Technologies/Technicians 2,185
Science Technologies/Technicians 1,385
Computer and Information Sciences and Support Services 777
Security and Protective Services 739

Source: JobsEQ


Regional Economy

The relative health of the Gulf Coast region’s economy can be measured by its sales tax revenue and comparison to other states on education, population, per capita income and unemployment rate. Together, these data are good indicators of the region’s economic dynamics and competitiveness.

Sales Tax Revenue

Sales taxes are inherently volatile in the short term but when reviewed over time can provide a useful indication of the state’s economic condition.

Receipts subject to state sales tax directly attributed to the Gulf Coast region trended generally upward in the past decade, with a return to strong growth immediately following the 2009 recession (Exhibit 14). For 2019, taxable sales directly attributable to businesses in the region exceeded $124 billion, contributing about 22 percent to the state’s overall taxable sales. The Houston-Sugarland-Baytown MSA directly accounted for $122 billion of this total.

Exhibit 14
Gulf Coast Region, Taxable Sales, 2007-2019
Year Revenue Gulf Coast Region
2007 77.52 billion dollars
2008 83.83 billion dollars
2009 74.36 billion dollars
2010 75.39 billion dollars
2011 86.74 billion dollars
2012 97.02 billion dollars
2013 101.66 billion dollars
2014 111.64 billion dollars
2015 109.40 billion dollars
2016 102.31 billion dollars
2017 109.55 billion dollars
2018 121.14 billion dollars
2019 123.70 billion dollars

Note: Numbers shown are for reported revenue subject to sales tax and directly attributed to the region.
Source: Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts


In 1997, the U.S., Canada and Mexico jointly released the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS), which classifies all business enterprises for the purpose of collecting, analyzing and publishing economic statistics. A review of two-digit NAICS codes allows for a broad analysis of industry sectors.

In 2019, the region’s retail trade sector contributed most to taxable sales, accounting for about 36 percent of the regional total. Three other industries of note were the food services and accommodation, manufacturing and the mining sectors, which together contributed more than 31 percent of the region’s taxable sales.

Gulf Coast Region vs. the U.S.

Exhibit 15 illustrates how the region compares among other states and the nation on a number of demographic and economic measures. If the region were a state, it would be the nation’s 15th most-populous (similar in population to Arizona). As a state, it would be the 42nd largest in terms of land area (just ahead of Maryland). It would also have the 16th highest per capita income.

Exhibit 15
Gulf Coast Region Compared to the U.S.
Measure Gulf Coast Region Rank if Region
were a State
Texas State Rank U.S.
Square Miles 13,926 42 268,597 2 3,531,905
Population, 2019 7,238,804 15 28,995,881 2 328,239,523
Population with at Least a High School Diploma, 2018 83.2% 50 83.2% 49 87.7%
Population with Bachelor’s Degree or Higher, 2018 32.1% 19 29.3% 28 31.5%
Population Under 18 Years, 2018 26.4% 2 25.8% 2 22.4%
Population 65 Years and Above, 2018 11.3% 50 12.6% 48 16.0%
Population Percent Change, 2010 to 2019 18.5% 1 15.3% 2 6.3%
Per Capita Income, 2018 $55,602 16 $50,355 26 $54,446
Unemployment Rate, 2019 3.8% 34 3.5% 27 3.7%

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


Gulf Coast Regional Summary

The Gulf Coast region is a microcosm of the state with a vibrant and diverse economy. Harris County, with Houston at its center, is the region’s economic hub.

The region and its 13 counties have many unique economic conditions and challenges. The region contains about 25 percent of the state’s population, up from 19 percent since 2010, and is the state’s most diverse region. While the region’s median age is on par with that of the state, it has the second largest percentage of households with incomes above $125,000. It has many options for higher education, with 10 universities, four health science schools and 18 community college campuses.

The local economy generates about 22 percent of the state’s taxable sales. Industry concentration in the region primarily revolves around the production of chemical and petroleum products, as well as certain transportation sectors, all contributing positively to a unique local economy.


Questions?

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

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