Job growth & unemployment

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Posted on 01/24/2023 by Beverly Kerr

  • Austin added 50,900 jobs, growth of 4.2%, in the 12 months ending in December, making it the 18th best performing among the top 50 metros.
  • Austin made up all of 2020’s pandemic-related job losses by May 2021 and the metro ranks 2nd for job growth since February 2020.
  • After reaching a new peak of 153,700 jobs in November, Austin’s leisure and hospitality industry shed 2,800 jobs in December.
  • Austin's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 2.9% in December, unchanged from November.

Nonfarm payroll jobs

Austin’s December nonfarm payroll jobs total is up by 50,900, or 4.2%, over the last 12 months according to Friday's and today’s releases of monthly labor market data by the Texas Workforce Commission and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On a seasonally adjusted basis, November to December job growth was 0.1% in Austin, compared to 0.2% statewide and 0.1% nationally.

Combining job losses for March and April 2020, Austin lost 137,100 jobs, or 12.0%, due to the impact of COVID-19. By May 2021, Austin surpassed the jobs total it had in the last pre-pandemic month.[1] Since July 2022, Austin appears to be at or above the level of employment that might have been projected had there been no pandemic. In both 2018 and 2019, the average monthly percent change in nonfarm payroll jobs was 0.3%. The graph below illustrates what Austin’s job trend might have looked like if the pandemic hadn’t happened and Austin sustained that average pre-pandemic growth rate.

As of December 2022, 45 of the top 50 metropolitan areas have regained their pre-pandemic level of jobs. Comparing metros based on where they stand relative to pre-pandemic February 2020, Austin, up 11.3%, is the second best performing major metro. Dallas (11.4%) is in the top spot this month and Fort Worth (7.6%) is also in the top 10. Houston (5.1%) ranks 12th, while San Antonio (5.1%) ranks 13th. Milwaukee ranks 50th with December 2022 jobs 1.9% below February 2020.

Austin’s year-over-year increase of 4.2%, or 50,900 jobs, makes it the 18th best performing among the 50 largest metro areas. Dallas is the fastest growing metro with 6.4% growth. Houston (5.6%) and Fort Worth (4.6%) are also in the top 10 and San Antonio (4.3%) ranks just ahead of Austin at 17th.

For the year ending in December, private sector job growth in the Austin MSA is 4.9%, or 51,000 jobs, with gains across all major private industry sectors, but one. Austin's sizable government sector (15.9% of jobs) is down by 100 jobs or 0.1%, thus bringing the overall year-over-year job growth rate to 4.2%.

Texas saw net private sector job growth of 5.6% with all private industry sectors adding jobs over the last 12 months. Total job growth was 4.9% as the government sector, which accounts for 15.5% of total state employment, grew by only 1.1%. For the nation, private sector job growth was 3.2% for the 12 months ending in December with all private industries adding jobs. Overall job growth was lower, at 2.9%, as the government sector jobs grew by a moderate 1.5%.

Jobs in December are down by 400 jobs or 0.0% from November in the not-seasonally-adjusted series for Austin. However, in the seasonally adjusted series, jobs are up by 1,800 or 0.1%. Seasonally adjusted jobs are up by 0.4% in Fort Worth and Houston, and 0.3% in Dallas, while down by 0.1% in San Antonio. Statewide, seasonally adjusted jobs are up 29,500 or 0.2%. Nationally, seasonally adjusted jobs are up from November by 223,000 or 0.1%.

In Austin, 10 of the 11 major private industry sectors added jobs over the last 12 months, most notably leisure and hospitality (17.1% or 22,000 jobs); information (6.1% or 2,900); transportation, warehousing and utilities (5.2% or 1,700 jobs); professional and business services (5.0% or 12,600 jobs); and education and health services (5.0% or 6,900). Only construction and natural resources lost jobs (4.6% or 3,500 jobs).

Ten private industries in Austin have surpassed pre-pandemic employment and only one has yet to regain 2020’s losses. Leisure and hospitality shed 62,200 jobs in March and April of 2020 (45% of all jobs lost). The industry finally regained those lost jobs in April 2022. Employment attained a new peak of 153,200 in November. Though employment fell back to 150,900 in December, that total exceeds every other month except November. The industry’s December jobs total represents 11.9% of all jobs—just below its 12.1% pre-pandemic share. Other services is now the lone private industry that has not regained February 2020’s level of employment. Other services jobs stand at 2.1% below the pre-pandemic total.[2]

Additional graphs: New/lost jobs by industry for Feb. 2020-Dec. 2022 and Nov.-Dec. 2022 and the trend since 2000 for six large industries and six small industries

Statewide, over the last 12 months, all private industries added jobs. The two industries with the most significant growth are information (11.6%) and leisure and hospitality (11.3%). All private industries, but one, currently have more jobs now than they did in February 2020, most notably transportation, warehousing and utilities, which is up by 20.1%. Construction and natural resources jobs are currently below February 2020 by 0.4%.

Nationally, all private industries added jobs over the 12 months ending in December, led by leisure and hospitality (6.5%). Information and education and health services are up by 4.8% and 4.0% respectively. Relative to February 2020, nine private industries have recovered pandemic-related job losses and two, leisure and hospitality and other services, have not.

Over the last 12 months, the net gain for private service-providing industries in Austin is 51,300 jobs, or 5.8%. Employment in goods-producing industries is down by 300 jobs or 0.2%. Statewide, private service-providing industries are up 520,000 or 5.6%, and goods-producing industries are up 104,900 or 5.7%.

Labor force, employment & unemployment

We also now have December 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 by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics until February 1. In November, Austin had the 21st 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’s not-seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate is 2.7%, while the other major Texas metros range from 3.1% in Dallas to 3.9% in Houston. Fort Worth and San Antonio are at 3.2% and 3.3% respectively. Austin’s rate one year ago was 2.9%. The rates in the other major Texas metros are reduced from a year ago by 0.5 to 0.9 percentage points. The statewide rate is now 3.6%, down from 4.2% in December of last year. The national unemployment rate is 3.3%, down from 3.7% a year ago.

In 2019, the unemployment rate averaged 2.7% in Austin, 3.5% in Texas, and 3.7% nationally.

Travis County, at 2.6%, has the metro area’s lowest unemployment rate in December, while Caldwell County has the highest at 3.1%. The rate is 2.7% in Hays and Williamson Counties and 2.9% in Bastrop County.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, Austin’s December unemployment rate is 2.9%, unchanged from November. The statewide rate is 3.9%, improved from 4.0%. The national rate is 3.5%, improved from 3.7% in November.

Among Texas’ other major metros, Dallas has the next lowest seasonally adjusted December unemployment rate, 3.4%. Fort Worth is at 3.5% and San Antonio is at 3.6%, while Houston is at 4.2%. Seasonally adjusted unemployment rates for Texas metros are produced by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. (The Texas Workforce Commission also produces seasonally adjusted rates for Texas metros, but publication lags the Dallas Fed’s estimates.)

In February 2020, before pandemic impacts, the number unemployed in Austin was 32,302. The number climbed to 130,460 in March and also exceeded 100,000 in April and May. In December 2022, unemployed stands at 36,833. That is 14.0% above the level of February 2020.

The Austin metro’s civilian labor force (employed plus unemployed) fell by 97,419 persons or 7.7% in March and April of 2020, while persons employed decreased by 195,577 or 16.0%. Labor force now stands at 9.1% above what it was in February 2020 and employed is estimated at 9.0% above.

Additional graphs – Labor force & employment: Texas and United States

Texas’ labor force is 4.6% above pre-pandemic February 2020, while employment 4.4% above. Nationally, civilian labor force and employment surpassed February 2020 for the first time in March 2022. In December, the national labor force is essentially unchanged from February 2020, while employment is up by 0.5%.

Over the last 12 months, Austin’s labor force increased 2.4% and employed by 2.7%. Texas increased labor force by 2.4% and employed by 3.1%. Nationally, labor force growth was 1.6% and employment gained 2.0%.

The Texas Workforce Commission and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 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. The Central Texas Economy in Perspective page provides an archive of past articles on the labor market and many other topics.


  1. Raleigh also made up pandemic-related job losses by May 2021. Salt Lake City did so one month earlier.
  2. Other services is largely comprised of repair and maintenance; personal and laundry services; and religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations.

Related Categories: Central Texas Economy in Perspective