Job growth in the private sector will more than make up for anticipated government job cuts next year, according to a series of economic forecasts presented today by the Austin Chamber of Commerce.
The Chamber invited four economists from four different Texas universities to give their forecasts: UT-Austin Business School Dean Thomas Gilligan, Texas State professor James LeSage, the head of Texas A&M University's Private Enterprise Research Center Thomas Saving, and from Texas A&M, and the chair of Baylor University's economics department Steve Gardner.
As you can see from the image above, all four economists predicted job growth in Austin. A&M's Dr. Saving was especially bullish in his predictions. Saving was unable to attend today's event and explain his forecast in person. But the other three economists were there.
"This year, the major growth in Austin employment was actually government employment," Dr. LeSage told KUT News. "That's not going to happen next year with the government deficit for the state of Texas, but we're expecting to see more private sector growth and probably a decrease in some government jobs in Austin."
Texas legislators are prohibited by the state's Constitution from passing a budget deficit, which means they'll have to close a revenue shortfall estimated to exceed $20 billion by slashing government programs or raising taxes or both.
"In Austin, we're seeing most of the [economic] indicators turn up," Texas Perspectives president Jon Hockenyos told KUT News. Hockenyos moderated today's discussion. "We've seen sales tax going up. We see job growth increasing. So the expectation is that 2010 was clearly better than 2009. 2011 is likely to be better than 2010."
But today's economic forecasts lacked the enthusiastic optimism typical of these kinds of events, according to KUT's Matt Largey, who was there. Hockenyos admitted there are a lot of problems still on the horizon.
"I think a lot of the real estate values haven't really settled out. That has an impact on people's ability to borrow money to expand their businesses. I think companies are understandably a little hesitant about hiring at this point, because they're not sure how long and how rapid this recovery's going to be," Hockenyos said.
"People are feeling better, but I don't think anybody's dancing in the streets at this point," he said.