“Oil and gas” are the first words that typically come to mind when most job seekers think about the Houston economy. This dynamic city, however, is also home to industries that stay strong outside the oil and gas boom/bust cycle– or even benefit from new growth opportunities when energy prices drop.

Are you considering relocating to Houston for work in 2017? Here’s what you need to know about the Houston job market:

There’s more to Houston than oil and gas.

Healthcare, manufacturing, wholesale trade, real estate, professional and technical services, food services, and arts and entertainment are all strong industries. While lower energy prices can hurt upstream and midstream jobs, these lower energy prices can also boost job growth in other industries that benefit from a cheaper cost of doing business.

Healthcare is a major economic driver during oil and gas downturns.

Just as Austin is known for its tech jobs and Dallas-Fort Worth for its corporate offices, Houston is also known for its healthcare industry. In fact, health care is the second-most prominent industry in Houston and a major staple for the local economy, helping to cushion the oil boom/bust cycle.

While I do not personally recruit talent for healthcare-related jobs, it’s important to note that healthcare employs an estimated 290,000 people across the greater Houston region. That’s nearly as many jobs as oil and gas– and my colleagues confirm competition for top hires is expected to be strong through 2017.

Energy sector is showing signs of early recovery.

Upstream and midstream oil and gas took a significant hit these past few years as the price of oil fell below $30 a barrel. Now, the pendulum is beginning to swing back in favor of energy. Four new crackers are expected to begin operations in 2017 and another previously idled unit will be coming back online, creating new petrochemical job opportunities.

With oil prices hovering around $50 a barrel, however, the energy sector recovery is still slow. A shift in federal policies towards oil exploration and extraction may help boost recovery in the coming months.

Changes to government policies may impact the Houston job market in 2017.

President Trump’s stated plans to renegotiate NAFTA and other trade deals could impact the Houston job market. The Houston Ship Channel is one of the country’s busiest seaports, serving as a major transport hub for everything from petrochemical products to Midwestern grain in addition to general cargo. While it’s still early to speculate what the fallout will be, I’ll be keeping a close eye on how these changes impact the Houston job market in the coming months.

Questions about what to expect from the Houston job market this year in relation to your professional path? Contact me at JKearny@lucasgroup.com to learn more.