Skip to main content

Dallas-Fort Worth Economic Indicators

Economic Indicators

April 26, 2022

Robust expansion continued in the Dallas–Fort Worth economy in March. Payroll employment grew at a swift pace, bolstering growth in the Dallas and Fort Worth business-cycle indexes. In mid-April, dining out was nearly on par with prepandemic levels, and mobility improved. Activity in the office market continued to recover from the COVID-induced slump, pushing down vacancy rates, and industrial leasing remained notably strong.

Labor market

Payrolls in DFW expanded an annualized 7.4 percent (70,900 jobs) in the first quarter, an acceleration from the gains seen in the fourth quarter of 2021 (Chart 1). Growth was broad based across sectors. Goods-sector employment expanded 7.4 percent, with payrolls in manufacturing (8.7 percent, or 6,000 jobs) and construction and mining (5.7 percent, or 3,100) rising strongly. On the services side, education and health services led growth (12.3 percent, or 13,700 jobs), followed closely by leisure and hospitality (11.3 percent, or 10,300) and financial activities (10.5 percent, or 8,800). Only payrolls in the “other services” sector contracted, down 3.1 percent, or a loss of 1,000 jobs.

Chart 1

Business-cycle index

The Dallas and Fort Worth business-cycle indexes continued to expand strongly in March, buoyed by robust job growth and falling unemployment. The Dallas index rose an annualized 19.2 percent, marking the 22nd straight month of growth, and was up 10.7 percent from its February 2020 level (Chart 2). The Fort Worth index climbed an annualized 14.7 percent in March, its 13th successive month of expansion, and surpassed its prepandemic high by 4.3 percent.

Chart 2


Google mobility data for Dallas and Tarrant counties improved from the recent lows seen in early February, with mobility steadily edging up from mid-March through mid-April. As of April 14, Dallas County mobility was down 2.7 percent from January 2020 levels—an improvement from its -6.4 percent reading on March 17 as well as the recent low of -18.4 on Feb. 6 (Chart 3). Tarrant County mobility followed a similar pattern, with the index down 17.7 percent on Feb. 6, 5.9 percent on March 17 and 2.1 percent on April 14 compared with prepandemic levels. The fluctuation was likely due to severe winter weather in February that restricted mobility and to spring break stimulating activity in mid-March.

Chart 3

Dining out

As the COVID-19 omicron variant surged at the start of the year, the number of seated-diner reservations at restaurants in Dallas turned negative—falling below prepandemic levels. As the omicron wave receded, seated-diner reservations climbed and stayed above prepandemic levels in mid-to-late February. Since then, activity in Dallas has softened and is largely tracking 2019 levels. As of April 18, the figures for Dallas and the U.S. were below 2019 levels by 2.6 percent and 3.1 percent, respectively, based on a seven-day moving average (Chart 4). Texas dining-out activity was strong at 17.9 percent above 2019 levels.

Chart 4

Commercial real estate

Office market improves

Demand for office space in DFW continued to rise, with positive absorption for the second straight quarter. Net absorption rose to 1.7 million square feet in first quarter 2022—the strongest positive absorption since fourth quarter 2019, according to data from CBRE Research (Chart 5). The vacancy rate ticked down for the first time since the onset of the pandemic, from 25.3 percent in fourth quarter 2021 to 24.6 percent in first quarter 2022. Availability of sublease space was little changed at 9 million square feet, or 16 percent of total available space, with Class A properties continuing to account for well over two-thirds of sublease listings. The volume of space under construction rose to 5.2 million square feet in the first quarter. Business contacts expect demand to continue recovering this year given a positive outlook for the DFW labor market.

Chart 5

Industrial boom ongoing

Leasing activity for industrial space stayed relentlessly strong in the first quarter, driven by demand from consumer goods, e-commerce, and logistics and manufacturing firms. Net absorption was 6.8 million square feet in first quarter 2022—the 46th straight quarter of positive absorption, according to CBRE (Chart 6). The vacancy rate edged up to 4.8 percent in first quarter 2022 due in part to an increase in square footage from new construction, and asking rents were 27.7 percent higher than year-ago levels. The pandemic has boosted online sales growth, which has been a boon to distribution hubs such as DFW. Industrial construction continued to expand in the first quarter, rising to 57.3 million square feet—a record, with DFW taking the top spot among U.S. metros.

Chart 6

NOTE: Data may not match previously published numbers due to revisions.

About Dallas–Fort Worth Economic Indicators

Questions can be addressed to Laila Assanie at Dallas–Fort Worth Economic Indicators is published every month after state and metro employment data are released.