Economists: Energy industry growth slowing, could hit Houston economy

HOUSTON — A new survey found rising pessimism among some energy executives’ outlooks for jobs, earnings and sales growth in the business this year.

While the survey was relatively small — based on responses of 13 chief financial officers in the industry — the findings are consistent with the observations of some of Houston’s resident experts on the energy economy.

Patrick Jankowski, vice president of research for the Greater Houston Partnership, said he’s observed a slowdown in the industry’s growth since mid-2013, raising concerns about what’s ahead for the business and the city.

“If the oil and gas industry is slowing down … it will have an impact on Houston’s economy,” Jankowski said.

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Buoyed by the booming oil and gas industry, Houston’s economy has thrived while other metropolitan areas have struggled to claw back from the national recession. But the city is starting to see the effects of a slowdown in the industry, as the energy sector pulls back from the frenzied expansion of recent years and returns to a more sustainable pace, Jankowski said.

While mass layoffs won’t occur in the energy sector, he said, “you’ll see people either quietly let go or not have as much work to do.”

That tempered mood mirrors the outlook of Houston economist Karr Ingham who, earlier this year, said there are signs that a slowdown is approaching.

Ingham noted that rig counts and the number of jobs in oil field services in Texas fell slightly during the last three months of 2013. Drilling permits for 2013 also declined slightly from the previous year, he said.

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