Note: This article is part of our State of the City project in which The Dallas Morning News examines some of the most critical issues facing our communities. For more topics, see our look at the economy in Dallas in the coming days.
It’s a cliché to say that the pandemic year was different from any other, and don’t be surprised to hear the same thing about 2021 as both descriptions should be accurate.
In Dallas-Fort Worth, where job growth feels like a birthright, the region lost nearly 122,000 jobs last year, according to seasonally adjusted data from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. This is the highest annual job loss ever for D-FW and 12,000 more than in 2009 during the Great Recession.
But a turnaround has begun as COVID-19 vaccinations rise and people circulate again. Texas executives are confident about their businesses’ outlook and long-term prospects, and measures of sales growth and new orders have hit record highs, according to surveys by the Dallas Fed.
“All stars are pointing towards great recovery,” said Luis Torres, research economist at Texas Real Estate Research Center at Texas A&M University.
The Dallas Fed predicts that Texas will create 816,000 jobs from December 2020 to December 2021. That would be almost double the nationwide job growth in 2014, the highest annual increase since at least 1940.
If employers make the planned hires, D-FW will likely also set job records. Since 2000, D-FW has accounted for 31% of the state’s employment gains, and if it held that percentage this year, North Texas would create over 250,000 jobs in 21.
That would more than make up for last year’s job losses, and some companies are already doing it.
“We’re hiring like crazy and 2021 is becoming the biggest growth we’ve ever had – in terms of headcount and revenue,” said Calvin Carter, founder and CEO of Bottle Rocket, a well-known local mobile building company Apps and websites for dozens of popular brands. “We have hired 50 people since the beginning of the year and will have to hire another 40 or 50 over the next three months.”
Calvin Carter, Founder and CEO of Bottle Rocket.(Bottle rocket)
Bottle Rocket had 240 employees before the hiring frenzy, so the additions represent a great deal of commitment. This is largely due to two sustained effects of the pandemic: an increase in digital life and the widespread acceptance of remote work.
Apps and websites are more popular – and more necessary – than ever. For example, grocery stores, restaurants, and fast food customers use Bottle Rocket’s digital tools for online ordering, pickup, and roadside delivery.
Consumers embraced these options at the start of the pandemic and continue to use them, Carter said. So customers want more.
“Companies woke up and realized, ‘Wow, this connected lifestyle thing is real,’” Carter said. “They found a way to do business in a completely different way, a much cheaper way, and they don’t want to go back. Everyone tries to use the technology as best they can. “
About half of Bottle Rocket’s new hires will be in engineering and quality assurance, with the remainder being split between project management, product management and user experience design. These positions are difficult to fill, and Carter recruits well beyond North Texas.
A big part of the pitch: Employees can work from anywhere – and forever.
Carter welcomed remote working at the start of the pandemic, saying people could do their work from an RV in Yellowstone Park as long as they had a good internet connection. The company later made remote working a permanent option.
“That’s a big advantage [for employees] and makes us a lot more competitive in recruiting, ”said Carter. “It opens our recruitment pool for all of North America.”
That’s important because there aren’t enough qualified candidates within a 30-minute drive from Bottle Rocket’s Addison headquarters, he said.
In February, government researchers updated 10-year projections for occupations based on the potential long-term effects of the pandemic, including more remote working and less business travel. Under a “strong impact scenario”, the demand for information workers and those in professional, scientific and technical services would grow faster. Jobs in restaurants, hotels and more would fall sharply.
On April 28 in Richardson, a sign welcomed applicants to an AT&T recruitment event. The company hired 300 retail, virtual sales, and customer acquisition jobs in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.(Smiley N. Pool / Employee Photographer)
According to the report by researchers from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of software developers, computer scientists, and web developers will increase by 19% to 26% from 2019 to 2029 under a strong impact scenario.
Demand for hotel clerks, cashiers, reservation agents and restaurant owners is expected to decline in the high double digits over the same decade.
In another report on pandemic effects, Dallas Fed researchers warned of slower employment growth in the short term, particularly due to labor market imbalances.
“For example, the large numbers of workers displaced from the leisure and hospitality industries are unlikely to move easily into growing sectors such as information technology and financial services,” they wrote. “You can more easily find employment in connection with e-commerce, for example in warehouse and parcel services.”
Since the pandemic, D-FW has lost 42,100 jobs in the leisure and hospitality industry and created 10,700 jobs in the area of transport and warehousing.
Other job winners include grocery and beverage stores, building materials and gardening supplies, financial businesses, and professional, scientific, and technical services.
In D-FW, employment in restaurants, health care and social welfare as well as in the manufacturing industry is still far below the level before the pandemic.
The US construction industry added residential jobs, but losses on non-residential projects outpaced profits. Many expect that the demand for office space will decline or grow more slowly due to remote working.
Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, has been a firm believer in bringing people back to the office. But in a letter to the shareholders in April he wrote: “For 100 employees we only need 60 seats on average. This will significantly reduce our need for real estate. “
If other companies followed suit, it would threaten dense employment centers, from New York City to downtown Dallas to Plano, where Chase has a large regional office.
Carter said Bottle Rocket won’t take up that much space either. About 5% of employees come regularly, and the turnout can be 25 one day and a few the next. According to company surveys, workers are generally happier and productivity is higher.
He still believes it’s important to bring everyone together to work together and feed each other’s energy. He’s planning a big company picnic for employees and families, hoping the get-together will get more people to show up at headquarters.
“We’ve already proven that we can get the job done without anyone coming into the office,” Carter said. “But I want a future in which people have variety and freedom of choice. Really smart people get bored easily, and we have a lot of really smart people. “
Features in our State of the City project’s look at the Dallas economy:
Overview: Pandemic deepened the economic divide in North Texas
Editorial: To give poor children a chance, Dallas should address these trends
What’s next: Dallas faces the challenge of attracting workers following the pandemic
SWOT: An Analysis of the Dallas Economy
Jobs: The job market is turning – with lasting changes
Income: wages are rising, but not for everyone
Real Estate: Why Building Homes in Dallas is Difficult
Small Business: Can Small Businesses Recover?
Mayor Q&A: Eric Johnson talks about the Dallas economy
Opinion: Strong local partnerships promote economic mobility, says Dallas Fed
Opinion: What suburbs can cities like Dallas teach about economic mobility?
Opinion: Small business start-ups create economic mobility