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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 Northwest Region2020 Regional Report

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

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 includes two metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs): the Abilene MSA, comprising Callahan, Jones and Taylor counties, and the Wichita Falls MSA, comprising Archer, Clay and Wichita counties. Counties in the region not associated with an MSA include 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 counties. The region’s economic center is the city of Abilene in Taylor County.

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

Population

The Northwest region’s estimated total population in 2019 was about 550,500, or nearly 2 percent of the state’s total population. The region’s population has remained stable since the 2010 Census. Taylor and Wichita counties contain about 25 percent and 24 percent of the region’s population respectively. The Abilene MSA accounted for more than 31 percent of the region’s population and less than 1 percent of the state population.

The region’s population stability from 2010 to 2019 contrasts sharply with the state’s, which saw more than 15 percent growth during the period (Exhibit 1). While many of the Northwest counties lost population, others saw increases. Taylor County outpaced all others, seeing its population rise by 5 percent.

Exhibit 1
Northwest Region Population by County, 2010 and 2019
County 2010 Census Estimate
(as of July 2019)
Change 2010 to 2019 Percent Change
Archer 9,054 8,553 -501 -5.5%
Baylor 3,726 3,509 -217 -5.8%
Brown 38,106 37,864 -242 -0.6%
Callahan 13,544 13,943 399 2.9%
Clay 10,752 10,471 -281 -2.6%
Coleman 8,895 8,175 -720 -8.1%
Comanche 13,974 13,635 -339 -2.4%
Cottle 1,505 1,398 -107 -7.1%
Eastland 18,583 18,360 -223 -1.2%
Fisher 3,974 3,830 -144 -3.6%
Foard 1,336 1,155 -181 -13.5%
Hardeman 4,139 3,933 -206 -5.0%
Haskell 5,899 5,658 -241 -4.1%
Jack 9,044 8,935 -109 -1.2%
Jones 20,202 20,083 -119 -0.6%
Kent 808 762 -46 -5.7%
Knox 3,719 3,664 -55 -1.5%
Mitchell 9,403 8,545 -858 -9.1%
Montague 19,719 19,818 99 0.5%
Nolan 15,216 14,714 -502 -3.3%
Runnels 10,501 10,264 -237 -2.3%
Scurry 16,921 16,703 -218 -1.3%
Shackelford 3,378 3,265 -113 -3.3%
Stephens 9,630 9,366 -264 -2.7%
Stonewall 1,490 1,350 -140 -9.4%
Taylor 131,506 138,034 6,528 5.0%
Throckmorton 1,641 1,501 -140 -8.5%
Wichita 131,500 132,230 730 0.6%
Wilbarger 13,535 12,769 -766 -5.7%
Young 18,550 18,010 -540 -2.9%
Abilene MSA 165,252 172,060 6,808 4.1%
Northwest Region Total 550,250 550,497 247 0.0%
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 Northwest region’s median age was significantly older than the state’s. Twenty-six of the region’s 30 counties had median ages significantly higher than the state median of 34.2 years in 2018; Throckmorton County residents had a median age exceeding 51 years, higher 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.

About 21.5 percent of the Northwest region’s 2018 population was Hispanic — more than 17 percentage points lower than their 38.6 percent share of the total state population (Exhibit 2).

Household Income

The Northwest region had a median household income of $47,848 in 2018. Texas’ household income is generally evenly distributed among five income levels (Exhibit 3). Of more than 9 million Texas households, 21 percent had annual incomes of less than $25,000 in 2018, while 17 percent had incomes of more 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 Northwest region, however, was significantly lower than the state average. Almost 28 percent of the region’s households had 2018 income exceeding $75,000, versus 38 percent for the state.

Exhibit 2
Northwest Region Population by Race and Ethnicity, 2018
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

Exhibit 3
Northwest Region and Texas Household Income Percentile, 2018
Income Level Northwest Region State Total
less than $25,000 26.6% 21.1%
$25,000 to $50,000 26.9% 23.0%
$50,000 to $75,000 18.8% 17.9%
$75,000 to $125,000 18.2% 20.6%
more than $125,000 9.4% 17.4%

Source: U.S. Census Bureau


Regional Industries

In 2019, the Northwest region accounted for nearly 2 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 Northwest region is a leader in rail transportation, support activities for mining and oil and gas extraction.  

Exhibit 4
Top 10 Northwest Region Industries, 2019
Occupation LQ Number Employed Average Annual Wages
Rail Transportation 17.12 22 $38,641
Support Activities for Mining 11.23 5,736 $75,545
Oil and Gas Extraction 10.41 2,225 $96,475
Pipeline Transportation 4.70 355 $105,631
Animal Production and Aquaculture 3.89 1,519 $35,680
Nonmetallic Mineral Product Manufacturing 3.73 2,292 $54,813
Leather and Allied Product Manufacturing 3.72 151 $30,903
Lessors of Nonfinancial Intangible Assets (except Copyrighted Works) 2.52 85 $99,186
Mining (except Oil and Gas) 2.49 700 $56,241
Justice, Public Order and Safety Activities 2.37 6,709 $48,966
Total - All Industries 0.95 207,526 $42,706

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). The two military installations within the Northwest region, which include Dyess Air Force Base and Sheppard Air Force Base, supported nearly 42,000 jobs and contributed about $5.1 billion to the state’s GDP in 2019 (Exhibit 5).

Exhibit 5
U.S. Military Impact on the Northwest Region
Estimated 2019
Region Total Jobs Supported Contribution to State GDP
Northwest 41,523 $5.1 billion
State of Texas 633,892 $75.3 billion

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

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


Jobs and Wages

The region’s employment increased by more than 2 percent from 2009 to 2019; employment in the Abilene MSA increased by almost 8 percent over the same period (Exhibit 6). About 33 percent of the region’s total jobs are in the Abilene MSA.

Exhibit 6
Northwest Region Employment Trends, 2019
Area Number of Jobs (2019) Actual Change (2009 to 2019) Percent Change (2009 to 2019)
Abilene MSA 69,037 4,909 7.7%
Northwest Region 207,899 4,942 2.4%
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 Northwest 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 Northwest Region by Location Quotient, 2014 to 2019
Occupation Number Employed Average Annual Wages LQ Unemployment Rate Five-Year Employment Change
Extraction Workers 2,715 $44,900 8.06 4.5% -1,976
Funeral Service Workers 208 $38,100 1.97 3.5% 19
Law Enforcement Workers 3,321 $48,600 1.9 0.9% -150
Other Management Occupations 12,308 $80,300 1.85 1.0% -168
Supervisors of Farming, Fishing, and Forestry Workers 139 $50,100 1.82 2.5% 20

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 Northwest Region by Numeric Growth, 2014 to 2019
Occupation Number Employed Average Annual Wages LQ Unemployment Rate Five-Year Employment Change
Other Personal Care and Service Workers 7,652 $20,900 1.17 4.2% 1,313
Health Diagnosing and Treating Practitioners 9,323 $91,400 1.1 0.8% 995
Food and Beverage Serving Workers 11,957 $20,400 1.05 5.4% 786
Building Cleaning and Pest Control Workers 5,422 $22,400 0.98 4.3% 639
Health Technologists and Technicians 5,935 $40,500 1.26 1.8% 268

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, Northwest 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 $3,401 more annually in 2018 than those with a high school degree, while those with at least a bachelor’s degree earned an average of $16,823 more (Exhibit 9).

Exhibit 9
Average Annual Earnings by Educational Attainment, Northwest 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 31,068 15.2% $35,612 2,065,483 17.1% $42,808
High School or Equivalent, No College 55,171 27.1% $39,212 2,765,759 22.9% $52,035
Some College or Associate Degree 58,694 28.8% $42,613 3,245,675 26.9% $60,428
Bachelor’s Degree or Advanced Degree 33,383 16.4% $56,035 2,454,975 20.3% $95,716
Educational Attainment Unavailable 25,530 12.5% $21,590 1,544,282 12.8% $22,087
Total 203,847 $41,019 12,076,174 $58,787

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau and JobsEQ


During the 2017-18 school year, 94.5 percent of the Northwest region’s class of public high school senior students graduated, higher than the state’s rate of 90 percent (Exhibit 10). In fact, the region’s high school graduation rate has consistently outperformed the state average.

Exhibit 10
Northwest Region Public High School Graduation Rates, 2009-10 to 2017-18 School Year
Region2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
Northwest 86.2% 92.8% 93.6% 92.1% 90.7% 92.1% 92.9% 94.2% 94.5%
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 Northwest region enjoy a variety of options for higher educational achievement (Exhibit 11).

Exhibit 11 Northwest Region Institutions of Higher Education

Universities

  • 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


The region’s four community college districts provided technical and academic coursework for more than 21,000 students in the 2017-18 school year (Exhibit 12).

Exhibit 12
Northwest 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*
Cisco College 3,358 693 $3,810 72.8% 27.2% 93.5% 98.0%
North Central Texas College 10,171 1,106 $2,730 72.9% 27.1% 90.8% 89.5%
Ranger College 2,399 371 $3,065 81.2% 18.8% 90.2% 92.4%
Vernon College 3,055 616 $3,300 70.7% 29.3% 94.7% 94.9%
Western Texas College 2,179 366 $2,790 89.3% 10.7% 94.3% 43.7%

*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, community colleges in the Northwest region awarded more than 1,100 certificates and associate degrees in general studies and liberal arts; the next most-common awards were for health professions, precision production and other trades (Exhibit 13).

Exhibit 13
Top 10 Certificates and Degree Awards in the Northwest Region’s Community Colleges, 2017-18 School Year
Certificates and Degrees Number Awarded
Liberal Arts and Sciences, General Studies and Humanities 1,188
Health Professions and Related Clinical Sciences 458
Precision Production 142
Personal and Culinary Services 134
Computer and Information Sciences and Support Services 85
Agriculture, Agriculture Operations, and Related Sciences 65
Business, Management, Marketing, and Related Support Services 60
Family and Consumer Sciences/Human Sciences 49
Mechanic and Repair Technologies/Technicians 42
Engineering Technologies/Technicians 29

Source: JobsEQ


Regional Economy

The relative health of the Northwest 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.

Between 2007 and 2019, sales receipts subject to state sales tax directly attributable to the Northwest region trended slightly upward but fluctuated. Receipts from 2019 continue this fluctuation around the trendline (Exhibit 14). For 2019, receipts subject to state sales tax directly attributed to businesses in the Northwest region exceeded $5.8 billion, about 1.1 percent of the state’s overall taxable sales. The Abilene MSA directly accounted for more than $2.1 billion of this total.

Exhibit 14
Northwest Region, Taxable Sales, 2007-2019
Year Revenue Northwest Region
2007 5.3 billion dollars
2008 5.3 billion dollars
2009 4.5 billion dollars
2010 5.1 billion dollars
2011 5.6 billion dollars
2012 5.8 billion dollars
2013 5.8 billion dollars
2014 6.3 billion dollars
2015 5.7 billion dollars
2016 5.1 billion dollars
2017 5.5 billion dollars
2018 5.6 billion dollars
2019 5.8 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 food services and accommodations contributed most to the region’s taxable sales, in all accounting for about 66 percent of the region’s taxable sales. Two other industries of note were the wholesale trade and manufacturing sectors, which provided a combined total of 14 percent of its reported taxable sales.

Northwest Region vs. the U.S.

Exhibit 15 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 area (just behind South Carolina) and would have the 51st largest population. It would also have the 16th lowest unemployment rate in 2019.

Exhibit 15
Northwest Region Compared to the U.S.
Measure Northwest Region Rank if Region
were a State
Texas State Rank U.S.
Square Miles 27,563 41 268,597 2 3,531,905
Population, 2019 550,497 51 28,995,881 2 328,239,523
Population with at Least a High School Diploma, 2018 84.9% 47 83.2% 49 87.7%
Population with Bachelor’s Degree or Higher, 2018 20.0% 51 29.3% 28 31.5%
Population Under 18 Years, 2018 22.9% 20 25.8% 2 22.4%
Population 65 Years and Above, 2018 17.4% 14 12.6% 48 16.0%
Population Percent Change, 2010 to 2019 0.0% 47 15.3% 2 6.3%
Per Capita Income, 2018 $44,114 43 $50,355 26 $54,446
Unemployment Rate, 2019 3.1% 16 3.5% 27 3.7%

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


Northwest Regional Summary

The Northwest region and its 30 counties have many unique economic conditions and challenges. The region is significantly older than the state as a whole and is less diverse, with the lowest percentage of minority groups among regions. The region’s population growth has been stable since 2010 and job growth has been stagnant over the last decade. Since 2010, its high school graduation rate has consistently outperformed the state’s. The region’s receipts subject to state sales tax showed a slight upward trend following the 2009 recession, reaching a high point in 2014.


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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