Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Forgotten Cities of the "Texas Miracle"

There has been plenty of talk promoting more highway investment so those in South Dallas can get to jobs in North Dallas, a long commute indeed.  The question is, "are those expenditures worth it?"  And won't they actually exacerbate the inertia built-in to the system of subsidizing long commutes?

I just looked into Dallas county job data from 2001 to 2011, a similar time period from the 2000 to 2011 census data that shows while the DFW metro grew by 1.2 million people, the city of Dallas gained only 9,000.  Or less than 1% of regional growth.  And it ain't because of lack of land either.  That is the least the city of Dallas has grown since 1880 when it grew from 3,000 to 10,000 people.

In terms of percentages, it's the least Dallas has ever grown and in all likelihood would be in complete freefall if it wasn't for the changing demographics favoring walkability and the investment and people pouring into uptown.

I've heard some that don't care about the loss of people.  "People just require services," they grumble.  We want jobs.  The problem is that jobs follow people.  Retail follows rooftops as the saying goes.  We need rooftops.  We create rooftops, we create jobs.

Even if we bought into the residential loss being 'ain't no thing', let's look into job numbers for Dallas County from the US Census

Year              Jobs             
2001              1,505,640
2011              1,239,445

Yikes.  That's a net job loss of -266,195.  You can't claim recession either.  Even though there was a minor blip in 2001/02, the economy picked right back up until 2008 when it crashed.  2001 was the job peak for Dallas County and it has been bleeding ever since.

How about total companies:

Year              Biz             
2001              63,613
2011              61,034

Double yikes.  That's a loss of 2,579 businesses or almost 260 per year, shuttering or moving out of Dallas County.

How about payroll:

Year              Payroll             
2001              $63,999,089
2011              $68,003,484

Aha!  We've got it now.  Payrolls are up!  Until we calculate inflation. /sad trombone

Year              Payroll per job     Inflation       2014 $            
2001             42,506                 1.3257        56,350
2011             54,866                  1.0438        57,269

A 1% difference in average salaries.  And given the way the highest salaries have risen, we might infer that the majority of jobs are in all likelihood paying less.

How about Jobs per Business

Year              Jobs/Biz             
2001              23.66
2011              20.03

In summary, total job numbers in Dallas are plummeting:

  • near 20% drop in jobs over 10 year span. 
  • A 4% drop in total businesses. And 
  • a 14% drop in jobs per company.  So those that have remained are shrinking.
Keep in mind, these losses are all while the region has GROWN more than 20%, making the net differentials look even worse.  All because we're subsidizing the exportation of jobs from the urban core, which we need to be healthy, to distances increasingly far apart.  The 21st century city needs the efficiency of agglomeration economies and employers big and small know it.  In fact, my company sat in a meeting where office brokers representing major corporations explicitly stated, "they want office space in vibrant, mixed-use communities."  

The market values bear that out as well.  There is a premium strictly because of the lack of supply.  Everybody wants walkable communities.  Shouldn't we be building and investing in them for everybody?  That's growth I can believe in.