College town means good news for local economy - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

4/5/09

College town means good news for local economy

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - The U.S Bureau of Labor recently released the latest unemployment numbers. Nationwide unemployment jumped from 8.1% to 8.5%. However, a recent report in the Wall Street Journal shows many college towns are weathering the economic storm better than most places. We wanted to know if this is true for Lubbock, so NewsChannel 11's Brittany Pieper sat down with an economics professor at Tech.  He explained what impact he thinks the university has on Lubbock's economy during tough times.

"College towns tend to increase during recessions. People decide instead of going out and trying to find a job in a bad labor market, I might stay on and finish a second major, do graduate school, something like that," said economics professor, Peter Summers. Economically speaking, times are tough, but Summers says they could be a lot worse in Lubbock if it weren't for Texas Tech University.

The latest unemployment numbers show Lubbock at 4.5% of unemployment.  That's better than the state average of 6.5% and the national average of more than 8%. "There are lots of things that could be going on to explain that difference, but I suspect that the university and things like the Health Sciences Center and the fact that Lubbock is a regional medical hub, those things would certainly work in Lubbock's favor," said Summers. 

He thinks one of the biggest assets the university brings to the Hub City is University Medical Center because health care tends to be recession proof. UMC Vice President, Greg Bruce, agrees. "People continue to get sick, people continue to need to visit doctors and hospitals regardless of what the economic situation is going on in the country," says Bruce. 

He added while most sectors are declining, UMC is adding local jobs. "We're adding nurses as our patient volume continues to grow. The School of Medicine is adding faculty members, new specialists to take care of patients," said Bruce. 

Summers says having a university in Lubbock also attracts businesses and employers who seek highly educated people. He says if the national economy continues to get worse, we'll still feel it, but probably not as severely or quickly as other parts of the country. "The overall university, that's going to help cushion some of the downturn that we might otherwise see," said Summers. 

The university isn't the only reason Lubbock's economy is in relatively good shape. Other factors like a stable housing market also help.

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