Looking for a job? One-way ticket to MidlandLooking for a job? One-way ticket to Midlandhttps://www.recenter.tamu.edu/news/newstalk-texas/?Item=70862013-06-13T07:24:00Z2013-06-13T07:00:00Z

MIDLAND - New figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics confirm what everybody already knows: If you’re looking for a job in Cleveland, Ohio, your best bet is a one-way ticket to Midland, Texas.

Midland is not the most scenic spot in the U.S., but the average rent on an apartment there is nearly twice what it is in nearby cities of comparable size, and rents are up more than 20 percent year over year — if you are lucky enough to get an apartment.

Official unemployment is about 3 percent; real unemployment is effectively zero. The reason for that is a booming energy industry.

Whereas previous Texas oil-and-gas booms have been driven largely by prices, this boom is underway when oil prices are high but not dramatically so, and natural-gas prices are on the low side (last year, they were at 13-year lows). This isn’t a price bubble, but real production improvements driven by technological advances.

Nellwyn Barnett of the Midland Chamber of Commerce is not telling any fairy tales. Sure, the capital of the West Texas oil patch has tried to diversify its economy, and has had some success, but it’s still an energy town.

“Rather than try to paint a picture of a diversified economy for the media, we embrace energy. But there has been a great deal of diversification within the industry, which gives us a lot more stability than we’ve had in our past," Barnett said.

The downside, if you want to call it that, is that Midland and the surrounding areas have been left with some pretty high-class problems: There are not enough houses and apartments for all of the new workers flooding into the Permian Basin, and the allure of high-wage jobs in the energy industry has made it hard to hire people for jobs in retail, services and education.

Last year, Midland was obliged to petition the state for waivers of student-teacher-ratio rules in its schools. Getting back within state guidelines has meant hiring new teachers, which has been a challenge with so much competition from the energy business.

Educational institutions are a critical factor: Midland College, the University of Texas of the Permian Basin and Texas Tech University all offer energy-oriented academic programs that help keep the oil and gas rigs staffed.

According to a 2012 report from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, Midland had a higher per capita income than did Silicon Valley, and the second-highest per capita income in the nation, trailing only the posh Connecticut suburbs of New York City.

“West Texas is not for everyone,” Barnett says. “For people relocating from other parts of the country, it can be startling.” In other words: It ain’t pretty, but it works. “But,” she adds, “if you want a job in Midland, Texas, you can find it.”

Midland Reporter-Telegram
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