City of Austin Skyline

January 26, 2017 - Job Growth & Unemployment

Posted By Chris Ramser | Jan 26, 2017
Central Texas Economy in Perspective Print Article City of Austin Skyline
  • Austin added 2,200 jobs from November to December 2016, according to the Texas Workforce Commission’s seasonally adjusted series of employees on Nonfarm payrolls.
  • In the 12 months ending in December, Austin added 18,800 net new jobs, growth of 1.9%. For this period, Austin is the 25th fastest growing major metro.
  • Education and health services added the most jobs (3,100 or 2.7%) in the past year—while the fastest growing industry was financial activities (4.8% or 2,600 jobs).
  • Austin's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 3.2%, up from 3.1% in November.

The Austin metropolitan area added 18,800 net new jobs, or 1.9%, in the 12 months ending in December, according to Friday's release of payroll jobs numbers by the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). December appears to continue (numbers are preliminary) a drop-off in Austin’s rate of job growth that began in August or, arguably, earlier. The first seven months of 2016 averaged better than 4% year-over-year growth, but in August the rate fell to 3.3%, followed by 2.9% in September, 2.3% in October, and 1.9% in both November and December.

Austin’s 1.9% growth makes it the 25th best performing among the 50 largest metro areas. Orlando topped the ranking by growing at 4.2%, while Dallas was second with growth of 3.9% and Seattle was third at 3.6% growth. No other Texas metro was in the top ten. San Antonio grew by 2.2% (17th), Fort Worth grew by 1.8% (31st), and Houston grew by 0.5% (46th) between December 2015 and December 2016.

For the year ending in December, private sector job growth in the Austin MSA is 2.1%, or 16,900 jobs, and with all private industry divisions, except manufacturing, contributing to the growth. Austin's sizable government sector (nearly 18% of jobs) saw modest growth over the last 12 months, gaining 1,900 jobs or 1.1%, thus bringing the overall job growth rate to 1.9%.

Texas saw weaker net private sector job growth of 1.7% with eight of eleven private industry divisions adding jobs over the last 12 months. The government sector, which accounts for over 16% of total state employment, grew faster, 2.1%. Overall job growth was 1.8%. For the nation, private sector growth is 1.5% for the 12 months ending in December, with all private industries, but manufacturing and information, adding jobs. Overall job growth is a more modest 1.4% because the government sector gained only 0.7%.

Jobs in December are down from November by 1,100 jobs or -0.1% in the not-seasonally-adjusted series for Austin. Job change from November to December is up in the seasonally adjusted series by 2,200 or 0.2%. Dallas (0.2%) and San Antonio (0.3%) each gained jobs in the seasonally adjusted series. The estimates for Houston and Fort Worth were both down 0.1%.  Statewide, seasonally adjusted jobs are essentially unchanged at 0.0% adding just 800 jobs in December. Nationally, seasonally adjusted jobs are up 0.1%.

In Austin, the industry adding the most jobs over the last 12 months is education and health services which grew by 3,100 jobs, or 2.7%. Financial activities grew fastest at 4.8% (2,600 jobs), followed by other services at 4.6% (1,900). Also growing at a faster-than-average rates are wholesale trade at 3.1% (1,600); construction and natural resources at 2.9% (1,700); retail trade at 2.8% (2,900); information at 2.6% (700); and leisure and hospitality at 2.2% (2,600). Manufacturing lost 4.0% or 2,300 jobs. [Click here for a series of graphs illustrating the last decade of each industry’s growth in Austin compared to the state and the nation.]

Statewide, education and health services grew fastest, 4.7%, and added the most jobs (75,700). The other relatively fast growing private industries include leisure and hospitality (3.5%), retail trade (2.9%), financial activities (2.5%), and other services (2.2%).  Construction and natural resources lost 30,100 jobs, or -3.2%, manufacturing jobs declined by 14,500, or -1.7%, and transportation and warehousing dropped 4,100, or -0.8% over the last 12 months.

Nationally, professional and business services grew fastest, adding 2.7% over the 12 months ending in December. The other industries growing at faster-than-average rates were education and health services (2.4%), financial activities (1.9%), and leisure and hospitality (1.9%). The number of manufacturing jobs declined by 0.4%.

The net gain for private service-providing industries in Austin is 16,900 jobs, or 2.1%, over the last 12 months. Employment in goods producing industries is relatively unchanged at 0.0% down by 600 jobs. Statewide, private service-providing industries are up 218,000 or 2.6%, while goods producing industries are down 44,600 jobs or 2.5%. For the second month in a row, growth in Austin’s service-providing industries has lagged the state’s; the last time this occurred was during the early 2000s dot-com recession.

A few private service-providing industries are growing at or close to rates averaged over the last few or the last several years while others have distinctly slowed. The two largest industries, professional and business services and leisure and hospitality, are also the two industries seeing the most marked slowing of growth in recent months. Professional and business services accounts for nearly 17% of the region’s total jobs. December’s year-over-year growth of 1.1% (1,900 jobs) is a fraction of the rates sustained in the past. Year-over-year growth in the industry has averaged 6.7% since 2011 and if that applied now, would have brought 11,000 net new jobs. Leisure and hospitality, the next largest industry in Austin (12% of all jobs), has seen growth over the last 12 months of 2.2% (2,600 jobs), compared to the 5.9% averaged since 2011. [Click here for a series of graphs illustrating the last decade of each industry’s growth in Austin compared to the state and the nation.]

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 that we often do a ranking of will not be released until February 1. 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 3.2%, while the other major metros range from 3.6% in Dallas to 5.3% in Houston. San Antonio is at 3.7% and Fort Worth is at 3.8%. Austin’s rate was lower 3.0% a year ago, an increase of 0.2%. Rates in Dallas and Fort Worth are unchanged over December of last year, while the rate in San Antonio and Houston are both higher, up from 3.5% and 4.6% a year ago, respectively.

Texas’ unemployment rate has traditionally been better than the nation’s since November 2006, however, starting in July 2016, Texas’ unemployment rate has been higher or even with the nation four out of six of the months. In December, Texas’ rate was 4.6% compared to the U.S. rate of 4.5%.   

In 2007, before the impact of the Great Recession, unemployment averaged 3.6% in Austin, 4.3% in Texas, and 4.6% nationally. Unemployment has been at or below pre-recession levels for 23 months in Austin. Texas’ average for 2016 (4.6%) is above what it averaged in 2007. The nation, with unemployment averaging 4.9% in 2016, has also not regained its pre-recession level of unemployment.

Within the Austin MSA, Travis County has the lowest unemployment rate in December, at 3.1%, while Caldwell County has the highest at 4.0%. The rate is 3.3% in Hays, 3.4% in Williamson, and 3.6% in Bastrop County.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, Austin’s December unemployment rate is 3.2%, up from 3.1% in November. The statewide rate is 4.6%, unchanged from November. Nationally, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 4.7%, up from 4.6% in October.

Among Texas’ other major metros, seasonally adjusted unemployment ranges from 3.3% in Fort Worth to 4.9% in Houston. San Antonio is at 3.7% and Dallas is at 4.4%. As with Austin, December rates increased from November in each metro.  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 Austin’s unemployment rate up from the rate one year ago, the number of unemployed is also up by 2,800 or 8.6%. In December 2016, Austin’s number of unemployed is 35,513. The number of unemployed in Austin averaged more than 60,000 for three years running during the Great Recession.

The Austin metro’s civilian labor force (employed plus unemployed) has increased by 2.3% or 24,739 persons from one year ago, while persons employed increased by 2.1% or 21,939. Texas saw 2.0% growth in labor force and 1.7% growth in employed, while the number unemployed increased by 9.6% or 53,221. Nationally, December civilian labor force is up by 1.1%, while employed is above the level of a year ago by 1.4%, and 372,000 fewer people (4.9%) are unemployed.

The Texas Workforce Commission will release January estimates on March 10. 

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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Chris Ramser

Director of Research, Chris Ramser, joined the Chamber’s Economic Development Department in 2011, after 6 years doing community & economic development, and GIS mapping with regional planning agencies. Chris earned a B.A. in Political Science & History at Southwestern University.