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As the Bay Area Struggles, Texas Booms

Houston, Dallas, and Austin are all adding more jobs than SF or San Jose

San Francisco residents may like to turn up their nose at the Lone Star State's conservative politics and run-away sprawl, but recently released statistics from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau show the Texas cities of Dallas, Houston, and Austin are booming as the Bay Area struggles to recover from the Great Recession. 

"If you could afford a bigger house with a lower mortgage rate and get paid a higher salary, the math of that is pretty hard to resist. And so you see that happening thousands and thousands of times over," said Lloyd Potter, head of the Institute for Demographic and Socioeconomic Research at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

While the Bay Area added about 85,000 new residents from April 2010 to July 2011, the Dallas-Forth Worth area added 155,000, making it the metropolitan region that showed the largest increase in population during that time, U.S. Census Bureau figures show.

Houston added 140,000 people, making it second on the top ten list of regions that added the most people.

Other major metropolitan areas with significant technology sectors — Washington, D.C., New York City, and Austin, Texas — were also on the list.

The Los Angeles/Long Beach area and Riverside/San Bernardino were the only regions in California listed among the top ten.

The reason Dallas and Houston are adding so many people is simple:

"It's because there are jobs there," said Eduardo Martinez, a senior economist at Moody's Analytics.

While the Bay Area's clean tech sector has been slow to add significant numbers of jobs, the spike in oil and gas prices has lead to a new flow of riches in Houston and Dallas, Martinez said.

From January 2011 to January 2012, the Houston area added 94,000 jobs, according to the most recent figures from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, while Dallas added 70,000 jobs.

Meantime, the San Francisco metropolitan region — which also includes Marin and San Mateo counties along with the East Bay — added just 26,000 jobs, while the South Bay added 24,000 jobs.

The unemployment rate in Texas — at 7.6 percent — is more than 3 percentage points lower than California's, which stands at 10.9 percent. 

The Bay Area may be the home for tech companies' corporate headquarters, but increasingly firms are deciding to locate their back office operations elsewhere.

"Apple will always be in Cupertino," he said, "but you will start to see them distribute increasingly across the country." In March, Apple announced it intended to double the size of its operations in Austin, creating 3,600 jobs there over the next ten years.

According to the real estate web site Zillow, the average home sold in Austin cost $209,000 in February, compared to an average of more than $500,000 in the South Bay.

Charts by Shane Shifflett

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