Job growth & unemployment

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Posted on 01/25/2022 by Beverly Kerr

  • Austin has made up all of 2020’s pandemic-related job losses and currently has 49,200 more jobs than it had in February 2020.
  • Austin ranks as the 6th best performing major job market over the last 12 months and the 2nd best performing since the beginning of the pandemic.
  • Austin’s leisure and hospitality industry lost 1,800 jobs in December and employment remains 9,000 or 6.7% below February 2020.
  • Austin's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 3.3% in December, improved from 3.5% in November.

Nonfarm payroll jobs

Austin’s nonfarm payroll jobs total as of December is 1,191,600 according to new releases of monthly labor market data by the Texas Workforce Commission and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In February 2020, before the impacts from COVID-19, Austin had an estimated 1,142,400 jobs. Combining job losses for March and April 2020, Austin lost 137,000 jobs, or 12.0%. In August, Austin surpassed the jobs total it had in the last pre-pandemic month. Austin added a moderate 2,700 jobs in December. In 2021, growth averaged more than 6,700 jobs monthly.

Last month, Austin and 12 other major metros had surpassed the number of jobs they had pre-pandemic. This month, 15 of the top 50 metros have regained their pre-pandemic level of jobs. Comparing metros based on where they stand relative to pre-pandemic February 2020, Austin, up 4.3%, is the second best performing major metro. Dallas (3.2%), Fort Worth (2.4%), and San Antonio (1.4%) are also in the top 10. Houston (-1.4%) ranks 24th. Philadelphia ranks 50th with December 2021 jobs 6.2% below February 2020.

Texas regained its pandemic-related job losses in October in the not seasonally adjusted series. Total nonfarm jobs are 239,000 jobs or 1.8% above February 2020, while the U.S. is 798,000 jobs or 0.5% below.

Austin’s year-over-year increase of 7.3%, or 80,600 jobs, makes it the sixth best performing among the 50 largest metro areas. Dallas (5.4%), Houston (5.1%), Fort Worth (4.8%) and San Antonio (4.2%) rank 16th, 21st, 24th, and 32nd, respectively.

For the year ending in December, private sector job growth in the Austin MSA is 8.5%, or 78,700 jobs, with gains across all but one of the major private industry sectors. Austin's sizable government sector (16.4% of jobs) is up by 1.0%, thus bringing the overall year-over-year job growth rate to 7.3%.

Texas saw net private sector job growth of 6.6% with all private industry sectors adding jobs over the last 12 months. Total job growth was 5.7% as the government sector, which accounts for 15.5% of total state employment, grew by only 1.2%. For the nation, private sector job growth was 5.1% for the 12 months ending in December with all private industries adding jobs. Overall job growth was lower, at 4.6%, as government sector jobs grew by a moderate 1.9%.

Jobs in December are up by 2,700 jobs or 0.2% from November in the not-seasonally-adjusted series for Austin. In the seasonally adjusted series, jobs increased by 1,500 or 0.1%. Seasonally adjusted jobs are up by 0.8% in Houston, 0.5% in Fort Worth, 0.3% in Dallas, and down by 0.1% in San Antonio. Statewide, seasonally adjusted jobs are up 50,000 or 0.4%. Nationally, seasonally adjusted jobs are up from November by 199,000 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 (17.8% or 18,900 jobs), professional and business services (10.8% or 22,500), and wholesale trade (13.8% or 7,500). Construction and natural resources has 600 fewer jobs (0.8%) than the industry had in December 2020.

Eight private industries in Austin have surpassed pre-pandemic employment and three have yet to regain March and April 2020’s losses. Leisure and hospitality shed 61,500 jobs in March and April of last year (45% of all jobs lost). With positive growth in 15 of the last 20 months, the industry has regained 52,500 of those jobs. As of December, employment stands at 125,300, 6.7% below February 2020. That’s about the number of jobs the industry had four years ago. The other two private industries that have not regained February 2020’s level of employment are education and health services (below by 0.2% or 300 jobs) and other services (below by 7.2% or 3,400 jobs).

Additional graphs: New/lost jobs by industry, Nov.-Dec. 2021 and 2000-21 trend for six large industries and six small industries

Statewide, over the last 12 months, all private industries added jobs. As in Austin, the two industries with the most significant growth are leisure and hospitality (11.2%) and professional and business services (10.0%). Only six industries currently have more jobs now than they did in February 2020, most notably transportation, warehousing and utilities, which is up by 17.0%. Professional and business services, financial activities, retail trade, wholesale trade, and information have also regained last year’s losses.

Nationally, all private industries added jobs over the 12 months ending in December, led by leisure and hospitality (19.6%), other services (6.4%), and transportation, warehousing and utilities (5.5%). Relative to February 2020, construction and natural resources; retail trade; information; financial activities; and professional and business services have recovered pandemic-related job losses.

Over the last 12 months, the net gain for private service-providing industries in Austin is 77,800 jobs, or 9.9%. Employment in goods producing industries is up by 900 jobs or 0.7%. Statewide, private service-providing industries are up 592,800or 6.8%, and goods producing industries are up 95,300 or 5.4%.

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 2. In November, Austin had the 15th lowest rate of unemployment among the 50 largest metros. Across Texas’ major metros, seasonally adjusted December rates are improved from November by 0.2 to 0.3 percentage points.

In December, Austin’s not-seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate has fallen to 2.9%, while the other major Texas metros range from 3.6% in Dallas to 4.8% in Houston. Fort Worth and San Antonio are at 3.7%. Austin’s rate one year ago was 4.9%. The rates in the other major Texas metros are reduced from a year ago by 2.3 to 2.8 percentage points. The statewide rate is now 4.3%, down from 6.7% in December of last year. The national unemployment rate is 3.7%, down from 6.5% a year ago.

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

Within the Austin MSA, Travis County has the lowest unemployment rate at 2.8% in December, while Caldwell County has the highest at 3.5%. The rate is 3.3% in Bastrop County, 3.1% in Hays County, and 2.9% in Williamson County.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, Austin’s December unemployment rate is 3.3%, improved from 3.5% in November. The statewide rate is 5.0%, down from 5.2%, and the national rate is 3.9%, down from 4.2% in November.

Among Texas’ other major metros, Dallas has the next lowest seasonally adjusted unemployment rate, 4.1%, in December, while Fort Worth and San Antonio are at 4.2%, and Houston’s rate is 5.4%. 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 data.)

In February 2020, before pandemic impacts, the number unemployed in Austin was 33,307. The number climbed to 138,731 in April and also exceeded 100,000 in May and June. In December 2021, unemployed stands at 38,652, 16% above the level of February 2020.

The Austin metro’s civilian labor force (employed plus unemployed) fell by 99,547 persons or 7.8% in March and April of 2020, while persons employed decreased by 204,971 or 16.5%. Labor force now stands at 4.4% above what it was in February 2020 and employed is estimated at 4.1% above. Over the last month, labor force declined slightly by 0.3% and employed is essentially unchanged.

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

Texas’ labor force is 135,914 or 1.0% above pre-pandemic February 2020, while employment is higher by 24,753 or 0.2%. Thus, the number of unemployed is up by 111,162 or 22.2%. Nationally, December 2021 civilian labor force is down by 2.5 million or 1.5% from February 2020, while employed is below the level seen in February 2020 by about 2.3 million or 1.4%, and 254,000 more people (4.1%) are unemployed.

The Texas Workforce Commission and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics will release January estimates on March 11.

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.

Related Categories: Central Texas Economy in Perspective