Strong job growth: How the Houston economy continues to remain healthy Featured

10:59pm EDT July 24, 2012
Strong job growth: How the Houston economy continues to remain healthy

I am bullish on Houston and proud to be part of a "can do" attitude in Texas. The bottom line is that our Houston economy continues to remain healthy, with overall leasing activity strong in the second quarter of 2012. The main driver in the Houston market is simple — strong job growth.

Our city added almost 90,000 jobs between May 2011 and May 2012 and our unemployment decreased to 6.9 percent, from 8.1 percent one year ago. Landlords continue to report strong velocity in leasing activity, resulting in over 1.4 million square feet of positive absorption in the second quarter, pushing the year to date total to 2.4 million square feet.

With all the positive news, the key is the energy sector. Some of the recent growth includes the expansion in North Houston and Woodlands, including Exxon Mobile's North Houston Campus, which is under construction, and Anadarko's second corporate tower in the Woodlands. Other submarkets are growing, including Phillips 66's recent announcement regarding plans to build a headquarters in West Houston, along with Apache's acquisition of the Galleria area land for a new headquarters building.

Although obviously one of the strongest office markets in the country, I believe the Houston market still will face some challenges due to mergers and company consolidations that will result in new sublease space hitting the market. At the end of the second quarter overall, we had almost 1.1 million square feet of sublease space available citywide, and in the CBD there is 360,500 square feet available, primarily in the Class A properties.

With the strength in our economy, our clients are now making longer term lease commitments (5-10 years) compared to a year ago. Landlords are now evaluating their tenant mix in their buildings, and if the tenant prospect has solid credit, they are offering aggressive tenant allowance packages to entice them to commit long term.

John S. Parsley, SIOR, is the principal and director of the Houston office of Colliers International. Reach him at (713) 830-2140 or john.parsley@colliers.com.