The Dallas-Fort Worth area added more jobs than any other metropolitan area in 2014, a feat it hadn’t achieved in at least two decades.
D-FW gained 136,900 jobs last year, followed by the New York area with 129,000 jobs, according to data released Wednesday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Houston area was No. 3, with 120,600 jobs. The figures are not seasonally adjusted.
December was the first time that D-FW has ranked No. 1 in calendar-year net job growth since at least 1990, when the BLS began compiling comparable state and local records. Texas also led the nation in job creation last year, adding 457,900 jobs.
Cheryl Abbot, a BLS regional economist in Dallas, said it’s unlikely that D-FW led the nation in job growth before 1990.
“Similar data was compiled from 1970 to 1990, but considering the fact that the world oil price collapse hit Texas very hard in the mid-1980s, it’s unlikely any Texas metro area led the nation in calendar-year growth during the late 1980s,” she said. “Going back to the 1970s, many areas in Texas recorded extremely strong percentage job growth, but their net gains were likely much smaller than older — and larger — areas such as New York.”
Bud Weinstein, an economist at Southern Methodist University, called D-FW’s 4.4 percent job growth rate last year “absolutely phenomenal.”
The 2014 job growth rates for both D-FW and Houston (4.2 percent) beat the state rate of 4 percent.
Two other Texas metro areas posted the largest 2014 percentage gains in employment as they benefited from the oil boom last year. Midland saw a gain of 6 percent, or 5,300 jobs, and Longview recorded a 5.2 percent increase, also adding 5,300 jobs.
Nationally, employment last year increased in 312 metro areas, decreased in 49 and was the same in 11 metros. The Atlantic City, N.J., area had the largest annual decrease in employment by number and percent — a loss of 8,100 jobs, or 6 percent.
So what’s driving D-FW’s job growth?
“Everything,” Weinstein said. “Construction is up. The airline industry has been growing in D-FW. We’ve had a number of corporate relocations and expansions.”
For example, Active Network and Omnitracs moved from San Diego to downtown Dallas last fall, generating nearly 1,500 combined jobs.
D-FW job growth accelerated across many industries last year, but particularly in professional and business services, finance, insurance and real estate, Abbot said.
A big chunk of that came from State Farm Insurance, which just opened a regional campus in Richardson for about 8,000 employees. The nation’s largest auto and home insurer hired about 2,500 people in the Dallas area last year and is still hiring, said spokesman Gary Stephenson.
Job growth in North Texas is expected to continue at a strong pace this year.
Boston-based Liberty Mutual Insurance reportedly is in talks with developers and the city of Plano about building a service center that could house more than 4,000 workers. Toyota announced last year that it will move its North American headquarters and 4,000 employees to Plano by 2017.
While many economists expect low oil prices to take a toll on certain cities in Texas and the state this year, they don’t think D-FW will be hard hit.
Oil prices have fallen more than 50 percent since June. The price of crude oil dropped nearly 9 percent Wednesday to $48.45 a barrel after a four-day rally of nearly 20 percent.
D-FW does not have as high a level of oil industry concentration as other areas of the state. North Texas has some oil-related corporate headquarters and finance companies, but it does not have large oil operations, energy manufacturing and oil-field service companies like Houston does. And the Barnett Shale has decreased in activity and employment the last few years.
“We’re pretty well insulated from the drop in oil prices,” Weinstein said. “Now, if we see a total collapse [of oil prices], that could change.”
Follow Sheryl Jean on Twitter at @SJeanDallas.