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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 High Plains Region2020 Regional Report

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

The 41-county High Plains region covers about 39,500 square miles in north Texas, stretching from the Oklahoma state line in the east and north and the New Mexico state line in the west to the Lubbock metropolitan area in the south.

The High Plains region includes two metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs): the Amarillo MSA, comprising Armstrong, Carson, Oldham, Potter and Randall counties, and the Lubbock MSA, comprising Crosby, Lubbock and Lynn counties.

The region’s counties not associated with an MSA include Bailey, Briscoe, Castro, Childress, Cochran, Collingsworth, Dallam, Deaf Smith, Dickens, Donley, Floyd, Garza, Gray, Hale, Hall, Hansford, Hartley, Hemphill, Hockley, Hutchinson, King, Lamb, Lipscomb, Moore, Motley, Ochiltree, Parmer, Roberts, Sherman, Swisher, Terry, Wheeler and Yoakum counties.

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

Population

In 2019, the High Plains region’s estimated total population was 872,000, or about 3 percent of the state’s total population. This represents an increase of 3.9 percent (about 33,000 people) since the 2010 Census. An estimated 35.6 percent of the region’s population is concentrated in Lubbock County. The Lubbock MSA accounted for 37 percent of the region’s population and about 1 percent of the state’s population.

From 2010 to 2019, the region’s population grew at a slower pace than the state as a whole (Exhibit 1). While 32 of the 41 counties’ populations decreased, others rose during this period. Randall County’s population growth outpaced all others, rising by 14.1 percent, about on par with the state.

Exhibit 1
High Plains Region Population by County, 2010 and 2019
County 2010 Census Estimate
(as of July 2019)
Change 2010 to 2019 Percent Change
Armstrong 1,901 1,887 -14 -0.7%
Bailey 7,165 7,000 -165 -2.3%
Briscoe 1,637 1,546 -91 -5.6%
Carson 6,182 5,926 -256 -4.1%
Castro 8,062 7,530 -532 -6.6%
Childress 7,041 7,306 265 3.8%
Cochran 3,127 2,853 -274 -8.8%
Collingsworth 3,057 2,920 -137 -4.5%
Crosby 6,059 5,737 -322 -5.3%
Dallam 6,703 7,287 584 8.7%
Deaf Smith 19,372 18,546 -826 -4.3%
Dickens 2,444 2,211 -233 -9.5%
Donley 3,677 3,278 -399 -10.9%
Floyd 6,446 5,712 -734 -11.4%
Garza 6,461 6,229 -232 -3.6%
Gray 22,535 21,886 -649 -2.9%
Hale 36,273 33,406 -2,867 -7.9%
Hall 3,353 2,964 -389 -11.6%
Hansford 5,613 5,399 -214 -3.8%
Hartley 6,062 5,576 -486 -8.0%
Hemphill 3,807 3,819 12 0.3%
Hockley 22,935 23,021 86 0.4%
Hutchinson 22,150 20,938 -1,212 -5.5%
King 286 272 -14 -4.9%
Lamb 13,977 12,893 -1,084 -7.8%
Lipscomb 3,302 3,233 -69 -2.1%
Lubbock 278,831 310,569 31,738 11.4%
Lynn 5,915 5,951 36 0.6%
Moore 21,904 20,940 -964 -4.4%
Motley 1,210 1,200 -10 -0.8%
Ochiltree 10,223 9,836 -387 -3.8%
Oldham 2,052 2,112 60 2.9%
Parmer 10,269 9,605 -664 -6.5%
Potter 121,073 117,415 -3,658 -3.0%
Randall 120,725 137,713 16,988 14.1%
Roberts 929 854 -75 -8.1%
Sherman 3,034 3,022 -12 -0.4%
Swisher 7,854 7,397 -457 -5.8%
Terry 12,651 12,337 -314 -2.5%
Wheeler 5,410 5,056 -354 -6.5%
Yoakum 7,879 8,713 834 10.6%
Amarillo MSA 251,933 265,053 13,120 5.2%
Lubbock MSA 290,805 322,257 31,452 10.8%
High Plains Region Total 839,586 872,095 32,509 3.9%
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 High Plains region’s median age is on par with the state. In 2018, only 19 of the region’s 41 counties had median ages significantly higher than the state median of 34.2 years; Motley was the “oldest” county in the region, with a median age approaching 49. On the other hand, five counties had median ages significantly lower than the state’s, including Lubbock, the region’s most populous county, with a median age of 30.6. The Amarillo MSA had a median age on par with the state, while the Lubbock MSA was significantly “younger.”

More than 36 percent of the region’s total population was Hispanic in 2018, 2.1 percent less than the state’s 38.6 percent share (Exhibit 2).

Household Income

The High Plains region had a median household income of $51,664 in 2018. Texas’ household income is generally distributed among five income levels (Exhibit 3). Of more than 9 million Texas households, 21 percent had incomes less than $25,000 in 2018, while 17 percent had incomes greater than $125,000. In every region in the state, nearly 18 percent of households had average incomes between $50,000 and $75,000. Household income in the High Plains region was lower than the state’s, however; only 31.3 percent of the region’s households had incomes greater than $75,000, versus 38 percent for the state.

Exhibit 2
High Plains Region Population by Race and Ethnicity, 2018
Ethnicity High Plains Region State Total
Hispanic 36.5% 38.6%
Black (not Hispanic) 5.1% 11.6%
White (not Hispanic) 54.3% 43.4%
Other 4.1% 6.3%

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Exhibit 3
High Plains Region and Texas Household Income Percentile, 2018
Income Level High Plains Region State Total
less than $25,000 23.7% 21.1%
$25,000 to $50,000 26.2% 23.0%
$50,000 to $75,000 18.8% 17.9%
$75,000 to $125,000 19.3% 20.6%
more than $125,000 11.9% 17.4%

Source: U.S. Census Bureau


Regional Industries

In 2019, the High Plains region accounted for almost 3 percent of total Texas employment. Exhibit 4 lists the 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 High Plains region is a leader in animal production and aquaculture, oil and gas extraction and support activities for mining. 

Exhibit 4
Top 10 High Plains Region Industries, 2019
Occupation LQ Number Employed Average Annual Wages
Animal Production and Aquaculture 14.52 9,913 $45,068
Oil and Gas Extraction 9.89 3,698 $136,134
Support Activities for Mining 7.09 6,340 $81,904
Leather and Allied Product Manufacturing 4.84 343 $42,989
Food Manufacturing 3.62 15,204 $43,434
Crop Production 3.12 4,354 $35,157
Pipeline Transportation 2.74 363 $139,690
Petroleum and Coal Products Manufacturing 2.58 749 $164,774
Support Activities for Agriculture and Forestry 2.49 2,493 $45,481
Heavy and Civil Engineering Construction 2.15 6,874 $57,338
Total - All Industries 0.98 372,929 $46,457

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


Jobs and Wages

High Plains regional employment rose by more than 7 percent from 2009 to 2019. Employment in the Lubbock MSA increased by about 14.2 percent during the same period, nearly double the regional growth (Exhibit 5). More than 31 percent of the region’s total jobs are in the Amarillo MSA, while more than 38 percent are in the Lubbock MSA.

Exhibit 5
High Plains Region Employment Trends, 2019
Area Number of Jobs (2019) Actual Change (2009 to 2019) Percent Change (2009 to 2019)
Amarillo MSA 115,668 5,767 5.2%
Lubbock MSA 144,429 17,944 14.2%
High Plains Region 372,737 24,899 7.2%
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 High Plains region’s most significant occupations are shown in Exhibits 6 and 7, first by location quotient and second by numeric growth during the last five years.

Exhibit 6
Top Occupations in the High Plains Region by Location Quotient, 2014 to 2019
Occupation Number Employed Average Annual Wages LQ Unemployment Rate Five-Year Employment Change
Extraction Workers 3,069 $44,200 5.21 4.4% -695
Agricultural Workers 10,668 $25,800 4.74 6.0% 1,072
Supervisors of Farming, Fishing, and Forestry Workers 559 $65,600 4.21 2.1% 77
Food Processing Workers 6,404 $27,800 3.00 2.9% 537
Rail Transportation Workers 624 $52,100 2.29 0.7% -91

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

Source: JobsEQ


Exhibit 7
Top Occupations in the High Plains 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 22,581 $21,000 1.13 4.7% 2,740
Health Diagnosing and Treating Practitioners 14,502 $97,000 0.98 0.7% 1,366
Agricultural Workers 10,668 $25,800 4.74 6.0% 1,072
Cooks and Food Preparation Workers 9,035 $23,000 1.05 4.5% 728
Health Technologists and Technicians 9,079 $43,200 1.10 1.6% 641

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 the High Plains region, 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 $3,539 more annually than those with a high school degree in 2018, while those with at least a bachelor’s degree earned an average of $20,207 more (Exhibit 8).

Exhibit 8
Average Annual Earnings by Educational Attainment, High Plains 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 62,657 17.0% $39,622 2,065,483 17.1% $42,808
High School or Equivalent, No College 91,273 24.7% $45,422 2,765,759 22.9% $52,035
Some College or Associate Degree 101,540 27.5% $48,961 3,245,675 26.9% $60,428
Bachelor’s Degree or Advanced Degree 59,921 16.2% $65,629 2,454,975 20.3% $95,716
Educational Attainment Unavailable 54,224 14.7% $26,657 1,544,282 12.8% $22,087
Total 369,615 $47,557 12,076,174 $58,787

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau and JobsEQ


During the 2017-18 school year, 92.9 percent of the High Plains region’s public high school senior students graduated, higher than the state’s rate of 90 percent (Exhibit 9). The region’s graduation rate has risen steadily since the 2009-10 school year.

Exhibit 9
High Plains Region Public High School Graduation Rates, 2009-10 to 2017-18 School Year
Region2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
High Plains 86.1% 87.4% 89.0% 88.9% 89.8% 90.6% 91.3% 92.8% 92.9%
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. The High Plains region offers a variety of options for higher educational achievement (Exhibit 10).

Exhibit 10 High Plains Region Institutions of Higher Education

Universities

  • Lubbock Christian University
  • Texas Tech University
  • Wayland Baptist University
  • West Texas A&M University

Health Science Schools

  • Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center

Junior and Community Colleges

  • Amarillo College
  • Clarendon College
  • Frank Phillips College
  • South Plains College

Source: Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board


The region’s four community college districts provided technical and academic coursework for more than 22,000 students in the 2017-18 school year (Exhibit 11).

Exhibit 11
High Plains 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*
Amarillo College 9,844 2,134 $2,670 60.7% 39.3% 91.4% 89.4%
Clarendon College 1,633 301 $3,030 62.4% 37.6% 96.1% 91.9%
Frank Phillips College 1,452 180 $2,966 82.4% 17.6% 94.9% 90.6%
South Plains College 9,279 1,520 $3,067 79.7% 20.3% 91.2% 94.6%

*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


In that year, High Plains community colleges awarded more than 1,100 certificates and associate degrees in health professions; the next most common awards were for general studies and liberal arts, business administration and marketing (Exhibit 12).

Exhibit 12
Top 10 Certificates and Degree Awards in the High Plains Region’s Community Colleges, 2017-18 School Year
Certificates and Degrees Number Awarded
Health Professions and Related Clinical Sciences 1,157
Liberal Arts and Sciences, General Studies and Humanities 781
Business, Management, Marketing, and Related Support Services 566
Personal and Culinary Services 310
Mechanic and Repair Technologies/Technicians 277
Security and Protective Services 243
Engineering Technologies/Technicians 195
Precision Production 191
Computer and Information Sciences and Support Services 189
Transportation and Materials Moving 142

Source: JobsEQ


Regional Economy

The health of the High Plains region’s economy can be gauged by its sales tax revenue and by comparisons with other areas 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.

Sales receipts subject to state sales tax directly attributable to the High Plains region trended upward in the past decade. The region saw a significant climb following the 2009 recession, reaching a high point in 2014 (Exhibit 13). While taxable sales revenue declined from 2014 to 2016, it has since been on an upward trend. In that year, receipts subject to state sales tax directly attributed to businesses in the High Plains region exceeded $11 billion, two percent of the state’s total taxable sales. The Lubbock MSA directly accounted for $4.7 billion of this total, while the Amarillo MSA accounted for $3.9 billion.

Exhibit 13
High Plains Region, Taxable Sales, 2007-2019
Year Revenue High Plains Region
2007 8.24 billion dollars
2008 9.11 billion dollars
2009 8.10 billion dollars
2010 8.38 billion dollars
2011 9.08 billion dollars
2012 10.01 billion dollars
2013 10.46 billion dollars
2014 11.00 billion dollars
2015 10.34 billion dollars
2016 10.07 billion dollars
2017 10.22 billion dollars
2018 10.80 billion dollars
2019 11.07 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, retail trade and the food services and accommodation sectors contributed the most to the High Plains’ taxable sales, together accounting for about 63 percent of the regional total. Another industry of note was the wholesale trade sector, which contributed more than 8 percent of the region’s reported taxable sales.

High Plains Region vs. the U.S.

Exhibit 14 shows how the High Plains region ranks with other states and the nation on several demographic and economic measures. If it were a state, the region would be the 38th largest state in terms of land area (about the same size as Kentucky) and would have the 47th largest population. The region also has the 10th lowest unemployment rate among states in 2019.

Exhibit 14
High PlainsRegion Compared to the U.S.
Measure High Plains Region Rank if Region
were a State
Texas State Rank U.S.
Square Miles 39,505 38 268,597 2 3,531,905
Population, 2019 872,095 47 28,995,881 2 328,239,523
Population with at Least a High School Diploma, 2018 82.0% 51 83.2% 49 87.7%
Population with Bachelor’s Degree or Higher, 2018 22.5% 49 29.3% 28 31.5%
Population Under 18 Years, 2018 25.5% 3 25.8% 2 22.4%
Population 65 Years and Above, 2018 13.8% 48 12.6% 48 16.0%
Population Percent Change, 2010 to 2019 3.90% 26 15.3% 2 6.3%
Per Capita Income, 2018 $43,059 46 $50,355 26 $54,446
Unemployment Rate, 2019 2.9% 10 3.5% 27 3.7%

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


High Plains Regional Summary

The High Plains region is mostly rural with two large urban areas, offering a vibrant and diverse economy. Its 41 counties have many unique economic conditions and challenges. Potter and Lubbock counties, with the cities of Amarillo and Lubbock, are the region’s economic centers.

The region’s median age is on par with the state’s, but Lubbock County, its most populous, is significantly younger. About one-quarter of the region’s population is under 18 years of age, and its high school graduation rate is higher than the state average.

The region’s economy reached a high point 2014, but after a slow down, sales receipts subject to state sales tax in 2019 indicate the economy has continued its upward trend. These economic factors, combined with agriculture’s large footprint in the region, differentiate the High Plains regional 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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