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El Paso Economic Indicators

Economic Indicators
November 1, 2017

Economic activity in El Paso remains solid. Nonfarm employment continued to climb in September. Maquiladora activity in Ciudad Juárez is healthy, and the El Paso housing market remains strong, with sales near all-time highs.

Business-Cycle Index

The El Paso Business-Cycle Index, which is based on employment, unemployment, retail sales and wages, posted annualized growth of 4.5 percent in September (Chart 1). Gains in the business-cycle index can be attributed to continued growth in the labor market and particularly to low unemployment. Wages in the first quarter were up 1.5 percent from the previous period. Meanwhile, retail sales fell 6.0 percent.

Chart 1


El Paso jobs rose at an annualized rate of 5.6 percent in September (Chart 2). Year to date, El Paso has added over 4,900 jobs and is growing at an annualized rate of 2.1 percent. Most of the job gains this year have been driven by education and health services, leisure and hospitality, and professional and business services. Together, these sectors have added nearly 4,000 jobs.

The unemployment rate fell to 3.7 percent in September, the lowest rate for the metro since 1990. The rate was well below that of Texas (4.0 percent) and the U.S. (4.2 percent).

Chart 2


Annualized total trade in El Paso amounted to $76.5 billion in August, up 1.4 percent from July (Chart 3). The gain was due to export growth of 2.9 percent and import gains of 0.6 percent. Year over year, total trade fell 5.1 percent, led by a decline of 17.4 percent in exports. Meanwhile, imports rose 4.1 percent over the same period.

Chart 3

Housing Market

The El Paso housing market remains strong (Chart 4). Annualized home sales totaled over 7,700 in September, up 8.4 percent from a year ago. Sales have continued to increase and are near all-time highs. Meanwhile, median home prices have remained stable, up approximately 1.8 percent from a year ago.

Chart 4

Juárez Maquiladora Activity

U.S. industrial production advanced 1.6 percent year over year in September (Chart 5). The Institute for Supply Management manufacturing index rose to 60.8 from 58.8. The new orders component, an indicator of future conditions, remained robust. The employment index also climbed, to 60.3 in September.

As the U.S. industrial sector remains upbeat, Mexico’s maquiladoras continue to add jobs. According to Mexico’s IMMEX series, Juárez manufacturing employment totaled over 275,000 in July (the latest data available), up 7.5 percent from a year ago.

U.S. auto and light-truck production declined to 10.5 million in September, down 1.1 percent from a year ago. Meanwhile auto sales jumped to 18.4 million, up 4.2 percent from last September. The strength in auto sales is likely due to Hurricane Harvey, which destroyed thousands of Texas vehicles. Auto sales are closely linked to the local economy because roughly half of maquiladoras in Juárez are auto related.

Chart 5

NOTE: Data may not match previously published numbers due to revisions. The El Paso metropolitan statistical area includes El Paso and Hudspeth counties.

About El Paso Economic Indicators

Questions can be addressed to Marycruz De León at El Paso Economic Indicators is released on the fourth Wednesday of every month.

Economic Indicators