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El Paso Economic Indicators

Economic Indicators
November 22, 2017

Economic activity in El Paso remains solid. Maquiladora activity in Ciudad Juárez is healthy, and the El Paso housing market stayed 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 1.9 percent in October (Chart 1).

Chart 1

Labor Market

El Paso jobs declined at an annualized rate of 1.9 percent in October (Chart 2). However, year to date, employment rose at an annualized rate of 1.6 percent and over 4,000 jobs have been added. The majority of the job gains this year have been driven by education and health services, leisure and hospitality, and professional and business services.

The unemployment rate fell to 3.4 percent in October, the lowest rate for the metro since 1990. The rate was below that of Texas (3.9 percent) and the U.S. (4.1 percent).

Chart 2

Trade

Annualized total trade in El Paso was $76.5 billion in August (latest data available), up 1.4 percent from July (Chart 3). The gain was driven by 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 17.4 percent decline in exports. Meanwhile, imports rose 4.1 percent over the same time period.

Chart 3

Housing Market

Annualized home sales in El Paso continued to move higher, totaling over 7,900 in October (annualized rate) (Chart 4). Home sales are up 9.3 percent from a year ago and have continued to increase to near all-time highs. Meanwhile, median home prices are rising at a much slower pace, up 0.4 percent from last October.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index represents the share of homes sold that are considered affordable to a family earning the median income. Affordability in El Paso inched up in third quarter 2017. The index rose to 61.0 percent from 59.2 percent in the second quarter. The third quarter reading is above the U.S. index of 58.3 percent.

Chart 4

Juárez Maquiladora Activity

U.S. industrial production rose 2.9 percent year over year in October (Chart 5). The Institute for Supply Management manufacturing index declined to 58.7. The reading is still solid, and the new orders component—an indicator of future conditions—remained robust. The employment index also declined slightly to 59.8.

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 277,500 in August (latest data available), up 7.1 percent from a year ago.

U.S. auto and light-truck production inched up to 10.6 million in October, up 1.1 percent from a year ago. Meanwhile, auto sales declined to 17.8 million, up 0.7 percent from last September. 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 marycruz.deleon@dal.frb.org. El Paso Economic Indicators is released on the fourth Wednesday of every month.

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