After a slight dip in October, the Greater Waco Economic Index returned to its growing ways in November, with spending and employment showing improvement but not increasing at the year-over-year levels it enjoyed earlier in 2013.
The bottom line is that the GWEI set another record in November by hitting 112.9, up from 112.7 in October and 107.6 in November of last year, according to Amarillo-based economist Karr Ingham, who prepares a report for the First National Bank of Central Texas and the Tribune-Herald.
In news probably not welcome to retailers, inflation-adjusted taxable spending rose only 1.2 percent for November compared to a year ago.
“But for the year-to-date, real spending in the Greater Waco metro area is up a respectable 3.7 percent compared to the first 11 months of last year and remains in record territory, having surpassed the prior peak spending levels established in 2008, in advance of the recession in 2009,” Ingham said in his report.
The cities analyzed include Waco, Bellmead, Beverly Hills, Hewitt, Lacy Lakeview, Lorena, McGregor, Robinson, West and Woodway. Auto spending for the year has been setting a torrid pace, but it actually dipped by one-tenth of 1 percent in November.
For the year, “real auto spending remains in record territory and is a solid 6.4 percent improved over the January-November 2012 period,” Ingham said.
The Greater Waco metro area economy continues to add jobs, Ingham said, “but the 1.1 percent rate of growth compared to November a year ago is the smallest rate of year-over-year employment growth thus far in 2013, and rates of employment growth have generally narrowed in the second half of the year.”
The Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes all McLennan County, has seen the addition of 1,200 jobs between November of last year and this year.
The November unemployment rate of 5.5 percent was the lowest jobless rate in that month since 2008, Ingham said in his report, “though the employment rate remains generally elevated compared to the several years leading up to the recession of 2009.”
Waco’s leisure industry, bolstered by the $17 million expansion of the Waco Convention Center, continues to impress.
Hotel-motel tax receipts reached $207,927 in November, a 22.6 percent increase from the $169,653 the previous year.
For the year, receipts have climbed to $1.96 million, a 13.7 percent increase from the $1.72 million during the first 11 months of last year.
Waco’s inspection services department in November took a break from issuing permits for high-dollar projects.
The value of those permits last month stood at $10.1 million, the lowest monthly total thus far in 2013 and down by more than 40 percent from November a year ago.
Still, the total value of $518 million is running 110 percent ahead of last year, thanks primarily to Baylor University’s new $260 million football stadium.
Permits have been issued for work on 340 new homes this year, and 2013 is on pace to be the best year for housing construction since the pre-recession year of 2008.
Existing home sales this year have reached 2,131, a 6.6 percent jump from the first 11 months of last year.
“The average price for the year-to-date through November is a modest 1.8 percent improved over last year,” Ingham said.