By Patsy Fretwell

The Houston area’s 2014 economy will return to a more normal and more sustainable rate of growth, according to a local economist with the Greater Houston Partnership (GHP).

Patrick Jankowski, vice president of research for the GHP, predicted the Houston area will create 69,800 new jobs this year. This number represents a 2.5 percent annual growth rate, which represents a growth above historic trends. He noted that job growth included job creation in every major employment sector, with professional and business services leading the way. Jankowski presented his forecast during a recent CCIM luncheon.

The Houston area has experienced a 3.1% job growth during the last 12 months with record-level home sales and vehicle sales during that time. “We have gotten back all the jobs lost since the bottom of the recession and even added some,” he said. And along with the jobs also came an increase in population, with Houston rated No. 2 when it comes to leading the nation in population growth for large U.S. metro areas.

He did note some slowdown in certain parts of the oil patch but said that was expected due to the high level of activity in recent years. He also pointed out that the number of oil rigs has flattened out since late 2012 due to pad drilling, with allows multiple wells to be drilled from one pad.

So what does a normal 2014 look like for Houston’s key economic indicators?

• Population: 125,000 new residents
• Employment: 65,000 jobs
• Houston starts: 30,000 single-family, 12,000 multi-family
• Foreign trade: $250 billion
• Air traffic: 50+million passengers

And from a forecaster’s perspective, if that trend continues for the next five years, “normal looks pretty good,” Jankowski concluded.