Trends in Texas and Tarrant County Amidst National Labor Challenges

The Wall Street Journal recently published an article illustrating America’s “long-term labor crisis” using a handful of different metrics. What does the statewide and local data say about the same trends in Texas and Tarrant County?

Labor Force Participation

The Wall Street Journal cited two separate labor force participation rate statistics: the first an all-encompassing measurement of the country’s labor force participation, and the second a narrower look at the labor participation of people 65 years of age and older. In 2000, the nation’s labor force participation rate was 67.3%, steadily trending down to 63.3% before the pandemic, and sitting at 62.8% today. In Texas, the figures were 68.6% in 2000, 64.4% pre-pandemic, and 64.6% today. This demonstrates not just a better participation rate than at the national level, but an increase when compared to February 2020 rather than a decrease, indicating stronger recovery from the pandemic.

The pandemic brought on early retirements among baby boomers, while even the youngest members of the generation are nearing the standard age of retirement. The next data points examine if as many are primed to enter the workforce at the same rate as people are leaving it.

Birth Rate

U.S. births per 1,000 people declined sharply during the 1960s, and have slowly but steadily declined since. In 2005, the American birth rate was 14 births per 1,000 people. By 2020, it had dropped to 10.9. How does Tarrant County compare? According to Texas DSHS, in 2005 our local birth rate was 17.3. In 2020, it was 14. So while the local birth rate has remained around 1.25x the national rate over the past two decades, it is still in decline as a raw number.


In addition to native population growth, another way to add people to the American workforce is via immigration. The Wall Street Journal article notes that in 2010 there were 21.1 million foreign-born workers in the American workforce, a number that has grown to more than 30 million today, a 42% increase. Foreign-born workforce data couldn’t be located for Tarrant County, but foreign-born population data is available from the U.S. Census. Per the Census, Tarrant County was home to roughly 292,000 foreign-born residents. By 2022, that number was estimated to be 395,000, roughly a 35% increase.

It's not an apples-to-apples comparison because the national data set is specifically workers, while the local data set is all people. With immigrants more likely to be working age, it’s safe to assume the local foreign-born workforce has grown at a faster rate than the overall foreign-born population figures above.


The Wall Street Journal also examined wage growth over time. Nationally, average hourly earnings of all private sector employees equaled $22.41 in 2010, growing to $33.82 today, a 51% increase. Statewide, average hourly earnings were $21.31 in 2010 and $31.59 today, a comparable 48% increase.

Local data of the same metric couldn’t be located, but a potentially comparable data point is average household income. According to the U.S. Census in 2010, Tarrant County’s average household income was $52,482. In 2021, it was estimated to be $73,545, a 40% increase.

The statewide and local data available seems to tell a similar story as the national trends: baby boomer retirements, declining birth rates, and immigration shifts all impact the Fort Worth area’s labor market, which in turn impacts the bottom lines of area businesses. The Fort Worth Chamber will continue monitoring trends like these to inform public policy conversations and promote pro-growth, pro-jobs policies in Fort Worth and beyond.

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