EDINBURG, Texas (ValleyCentral) — The economic forecast for the Rio Grande Valley and Texas, looks promising, according to banking officials and economics professors.
The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and the Center for Border Economic Studies held a symposium Friday, highlighting the economic challenges facing the RGV and Mexico.
UTRGV Economics Professor, Salvador Contreras, said economic prospects were looking up, especially for young people.
“Not just in the RGV, but in the U.S. as a whole we’ve seen the labor demand for young people increase, their wages increase,” Contreras said. “Historically young people have the highest unemployment rate, the lowest wages, but not today.”
Contreras said he heard from students who reported they had jobs with good hours and good pay.
He said signs of a promising economy were apparent all around the RGV. He said new developments and all the construction going on in the area were good signs.
Contreras said embracing new technology was an important part of creating new jobs. “Historically speaking, every improvement or leap forward in technology has created additional tasks that need to be done,” he said.
Contreras added that historically, there had been low productivity levels in the RGV.
He said that was the main reason wages tended to be low in the region. But, he said since the pandemic, there had been a strong increase in the demand for labor.
“I think the U.S. government has gone out of its way to incentivize manufacturers coming back to the U.S.,” Contreras said. “We’ve heard things like, companies like Samsung for example, or Taiwan Semiconductor, for example, were making these billion-dollar investments in the U.S.”
Having a good job is one thing, but being able to manage the money you’re making is something else.
Business students from UTRGV learning about financial literacy also attended the event. Maria Leonard, Assistant Professor of Practice at the Robert C. Vackar College of Business and Entrepreneurship, said there were a few important factors when it came to money management.
She added they were, “Acquiring and managing credit, working on budgeting, saving, banking instruments, mortgaging a house, and avoiding fraud.”
Leonard said her students were trained in these areas and began teaching those principles to high school students in the area, particularly at PSJA.
Leonard explained some of her students didn’t know the information before they began their training. She said, she pivoted and started teaching those same principles to her students but at a more advanced level.
Leonard said when students came to her, they hadn’t received any previous financial literacy education. She said, “Only one percent of high schools in the entire United States give financial literacy classes as part of the curriculum.”
Leonard said many students didn’t have the opportunity to create wealth and manage risk. She said young people can be especially vulnerable because they are constantly being offered lines of credit.
She said decisions they made today could impact their ability to make larger purchases in the future, such as cars and houses.
Contreras said the best way for students, or anyone else to better understand the economy was to learn how markets work.
“There are demand and supply forces, and they’re going to explain everything from the price of gasoline to the price of oil, the price of health care, the price of eggs,” he said. “And these things affect allocation who gets what, and when.”
Economists said the RGV had performed better than the rest of the state in some cases, and that Texas had done much better than the rest of the country.