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January 23, 2018 - Job Growth & Unemployment

Posted By Beverly Kerr | Jan 23, 2018
Central Texas Economy in Perspective Print Article Skyline
  • Austin added 30,000 net new jobs, growth of 2.9%, in the 12 months ending in December, making Austin the sixth fastest growing major metro.
  • Wholesale trade was the fastest growing industry in the Austin MSA, increasing jobs by 9.5% (4,700 jobs) over the last 12 months. Leisure and hospitality added the most jobs—6,500 (5.3% growth).
  • Manufacturing jobs grew 3.6% year-over-year, outpacing private industry growth for the ninth month in a row.
  • Austin's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 2.8%, unchanged from November.

The Austin metropolitan area added 30,000 net new jobs, or 2.9%, in the 12 months ending in December, according to Friday's releases of preliminary payroll jobs numbers by the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Austin’s 2.9% growth makes it the sixth best performing among the 50 largest metro areas. San Antonio (up 3.2%), Fort Worth (up 2.9%), and Dallas (up 2.4%) ranked third, seventh, and 11th respectively. Houston’s 1.5% gain ranked 30th.

For the year ending in December, private sector job growth in the Austin MSA is 3.3%, or 27,800 jobs, with all but two private industry divisions adding jobs. Austin's sizable government sector (nearly 18% of jobs) saw more moderate growth over the last 12 months, gaining 2,200 jobs or 1.2%, thus bringing the overall job growth rate to 2.9%.

Texas saw net private sector job growth of 2.7% with all private industries, except two, adding jobs over the last 12 months. Total job growth was 2.5% as the government sector, which accounts for over 16% of total state employment, gained only 1.9%. For the nation, private sector growth is 1.7% for the 12 months ending in December with all private industries, but one, adding jobs. Overall job growth is a more modest 1.5% because government sector growth was only 0.2%.

Jobs in December are up from the preceding month by 1,200 jobs or 0.1% in the not-seasonally-adjusted series for Austin. In the seasonally adjusted series, growth from November to December is 3,200 jobs or 0.3%. Seasonally adjusted jobs are up by 0.6% in San Antonio, 0.5% in Fort Worth, essentially unchanged in Houston, and down 0.3% in Dallas. Statewide, seasonally adjusted jobs are essentially unchanged (up 400 jobs or 0.0%). Nationally, seasonally adjusted jobs are up 0.1% from November.

In Austin, the industry adding the most jobs is leisure and hospitality, which grew by 6,500 jobs, or 5.3%, over the last 12 months. Wholesale trade grew fastest, at 9.5%, and added 4,700 jobs. Also growing at faster-than-average rates are transportation, warehousing and utilities (5.9% or 1,100 jobs); construction and natural resources (5.0% or 3,000 jobs); education and health services (4.0% or 4,800 jobs); manufacturing (3.6% or 2,000 jobs); and other services (3.6% or 1,600 jobs). This is the ninth month in a row that manufacturing job growth outpaced private job growth. The last time manufacturing grew at a greater rate than the growth rate for all private industries was a three-month period during 2011. The only other occasions when Austin’s manufacturing industry posted faster-than-average growth rates were before the dot com recession of the early 2000s.

Two of Austin’s industries have fewer jobs than one year ago: information (-900 or -3.1%) and retail trade (-100 or -0.1%). Click here for graphs of the 2012-2017 growth rate trends for major industry groups.

Statewide, construction and natural resources grew fastest, at 6.5%, and added the most jobs (59,800 jobs) over the last 12 months. The other relatively fast growing industries include other services (4.8%), manufacturing (4.3%), financial activities (3.5%), professional and business services (3.2%), and leisure and hospitality (3.0%). Jobs declined in information by 4.6% and in retail trade by 0.1%.

Nationally, construction and natural resources grew fastest, adding 4.2% over the 12 months ending in December. Professional and business services (2.5%), education and health services (2.0%), leisure and hospitality (2.0%), and other services (2.0%) were also relatively fast growing. Information jobs fell by 1.6% and retail jobs fell by 0.2%.

The net gain for private service-providing industries in Austin is 22,800 jobs, or 3.2%, over the last 12 months. Employment in goods producing industries is up by 5,000 jobs or 4.3%. Statewide, private service-providing industries are up 176,000, or 2.1%, and goods producing industries are up 96,100 jobs, or 5.4%.

We also now have November labor force, employment, and unemployment numbers for Texas and local areas in Texas. The same data for all U.S. metros will not be released until February 6. In November, Austin had the fifth lowest rate of unemployment among the 50 largest metros.

Unemployment numbers for December show Austin’s performance relative to the state and other major Texas metros being sustained. In December, Austin is at 2.7%, while the other major metros range from 3.0% in San Antonio to 4.3% in Houston. Dallas and Fort Worth are at 3.1% and 3.2% respectively. Austin’s rate one year ago was 3.2%. The rates in Texas’ other major metros are also each below the rates seen a year ago. The statewide not-seasonally-adjusted rate is now 3.7%, down from 4.5% in December of last year. The national unemployment rate is 3.9%, improved from 4.5% in December 2016.

Within the Austin MSA, Travis County has the lowest unemployment rate in December, at 2.6%, while Caldwell County has the highest at 3.2%. The rate is 2.8% in Hays and Williamson Counties and 3.0% in Bastrop County.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, Austin’s December unemployment rate is 2.8%, unchanged from November. The statewide rate is 3.9% up from 3.8% in November. Nationally, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 4.1% in December, unchanged from November. Before this year, the last time Austin’s unemployment rate fell below 3.0% was in January of 2001. The national rate is at its lowest level since December of 2000. The TWC’s (and BLS’s) published time series for Texas’ unemployment rate begins in 1976 and the last three months are the only occasions that the rate has fallen below 4.0%.

Among Texas’ major metros, Dallas has the next lowest seasonally adjusted rate at 3.5%, while San Antonio, Fort Worth, and Houston are at 3.8%, 4.4%, and 4.9% respectively. December rates are up from November in Dallas, unchanged in Austin and Fort Worth, and down in Houston and San Antonio. Seasonally adjusted unemployment rates for Texas metros are produced by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. (The TWC also produces seasonally adjusted rates for Texas metros, but publication lags the Dallas Fed’s data.)

With the decrease in Austin’s unemployment rate from one year ago, the number unemployed has also declined. In December 2016, Austin’s number of unemployed was 35,526. Over the last 12 months, the unemployed have decreased by 4,725, or 13.3%, to 30,801.

The Austin metro’s civilian labor force (employed plus unemployed) has increased by 2.7% or 30,225 persons from one year ago, while persons employed increased by 3.2% or 34,950. Texas has also seen greater growth in employed (2.3%) than labor force (1.4%), and the number unemployed decreased by 104,669 or 17.3%. Nationally, December civilian labor force is up by 0.6%, while employed is above the level of a year ago by 1.2%, and 892,000 fewer people (12.4%) are unemployed. Click here for graphs of the 2012-2017 growth rate trends for labor force and employment.

The Texas Workforce Commission will release January estimates on March 9.

The Chamber’s Economic Indicators page provides up-to-date historical spreadsheet versions of Austin, Texas and U.S. data for both the Current Employment Statistics (CES) and Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) data addressed above.

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Beverly Kerr

Vice President of Research, Beverly Kerr, joined the Chamber’s Economic Development Department in 2004, following 10 years in a similar role with the Kansas City Area Development Council. Beverly earned an M.A. in economics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.