March 13, 2018 - Job Growth & Unemployment

Posted By Beverly Kerr | Mar 13, 2018
Central Texas Economy in Perspective Print Article Skyline
  • Austin added 36,900 net new jobs, growth of 3.7%, in the 12 months ending in January, making Austin the second fastest growing major metro.
  • Wholesale trade was the fastest growing industry in the Austin MSA, increasing jobs by 9.2% (4,600 jobs) over the last 12 months. Professional and business services added the most jobs—12,500 (7.4% growth).
  • Austin's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 3.0%, up from 2.9% in December.

The Austin metropolitan area added 36,900 net new jobs, or 3.7%, in the 12 months ending in January, 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 3.7% growth makes it the second best performing among the 50 largest metro areas. Dallas (up 2.6%), Houston (up 2.2%), Fort Worth (up 2.1%), and San Antonio (up 2.0%) ranked 12th, 17th, 18th, and 21st respectively.

January jobs data comes with the revision of previous estimates for 2014-2017. In March of each year, the BLS revises the monthly survey-based estimates against other data including the universe of payrolls covered by state and federal unemployment insurance. Preliminary 2017 estimates for jobs in Austin have been revised upward. While the difference between the previous average nonfarm jobs total for 2017 (1,027,075) and the revised one (1,032,600) appears moderate (0.5%), growth from 2016 to 2017 (based on annual average jobs) turns out to have been 3.2% (32,100 jobs) instead of the 2.7% (27,275 jobs) previously estimated.

For the year ending in January, private sector job growth in the Austin MSA is 4.8%, or 39,700 jobs, with all but one private industry divisions adding jobs. Austin's sizable government sector (over 17% of jobs) saw jobs contract over the last 12 months, losing 2,800 jobs or 1.5%, thus bringing the overall job growth rate to 3.7%.

Texas saw net private sector job growth of 2.6% with all private industries, except two, adding jobs over the last 12 months. Total job growth was 2.2% as the government sector, which accounts for 16% of total state employment, gained only 0.5%. For the nation, private sector growth is 1.7% for the 12 months ending in January with all private industries, but two, adding jobs. Overall job growth is a more modest 1.4% because government sector growth was essentially unchanged.

Jobs in January are down from the preceding month by 8,300 jobs or 0.8% in the not-seasonally-adjusted series for Austin. In the seasonally adjusted series, growth from December to January is 4,900 jobs or 0.5%. Seasonally adjusted jobs are up by 0.2% in Houston and San Antonio, and 0.1% in Dallas, and down 0.1% in Fort Worth. Statewide, seasonally adjusted jobs are up 16,000 or 0.1%. Nationally, seasonally adjusted jobs are up 0.2% from December.

In Austin, the industry adding the most jobs is professional and business, which grew by 12,500 jobs, or 7.4%, over the last 12 months.[1] Wholesale trade grew fastest, at 9.2%, and added 4,600 jobs. Also growing at faster-than-average rates are transportation, warehousing and utilities (8.0% or 1,600 jobs); other services (6.0% or 2,600 jobs); leisure and hospitality (5.4% or 6400 jobs); and financial activities (5.0% or 2,900 jobs). Austin’s retail trade industry has fewer jobs than one year ago (-200 or -0.2%). Click here for graphs of the 2012-2018 growth rate trends for major industry groups.

Statewide, construction and natural resources grew fastest, at 6.5%, and added the most jobs (58,000 jobs) over the last 12 months. The other relatively fast growing industries include leisure and hospitality (4.4%); wholesale trade (3.1%); transportation, warehousing, and utilities (2.8%); and financial activities (2.7%). Jobs declined in information by 1.1% and in retail trade by 0.2%.

Nationally, construction and natural resources grew fastest, adding 4.1% over the 12 months ending in January. Transportation, warehousing, and utilities (2.6%), professional and business services (2.2%), leisure and hospitality (2.2%), and education and health services (2.1%) were also relatively fast growing. Information jobs fell by 1.9% and retail jobs fell by 0.4%.

The net gain for private service-providing industries in Austin is 34,800 jobs, or 4.9%, over the last 12 months. Employment in goods producing industries is up by 4,900 jobs or 4.3%. Statewide, private service-providing industries are up 178,700, or 2.1%, and goods producing industries are up 78,100 jobs, or 4.5%.

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 until March 16. In December, Austin had the fourth lowest rate of unemployment among the 50 largest metros.

Unemployment numbers for January show Austin’s performance relative to the state and other major Texas metros being sustained. In January, Austin is at 3.0%, while the other major metros range from 3.4% in San Antonio to 4.8% in Houston. Dallas and Fort Worth are at 3.6%. Austin’s rate one year ago was 3.5%. 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 4.2%, down from 5.0% in January of last year. The national unemployment rate is 4.5%, improved from 5.1% in January 2017.

Within the Austin MSA, Travis County has the lowest unemployment rate in January, at 2.9%, while Caldwell County has the highest at 3.6%. The rate is 3.0% in Hays County, 3.1% in Williamson County, and 3.4% in Bastrop County.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, Austin’s January unemployment rate is 3.0%, up from 2.9% in December. The statewide rate is 4.0% unchanged from December. Nationally, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 4.1% in January, also unchanged from December.

Among Texas’ major metros, San Antonio has the next lowest seasonally adjusted rate at 3.4%, while Dallas, Fort Worth, and Houston are at 3.6%, 3.7%, and 4.7% respectively. January rates are up from December 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 the decrease in Austin’s unemployment rate from one year ago, the number unemployed has also declined. In January 2017, Austin’s number of unemployed was 39,820. Over the last 12 months, the unemployed have decreased by 4,868, or 12.2%, to 34,952.

The Austin metro’s civilian labor force (employed plus unemployed) has increased by 3.2% or 36,675 persons from one year ago, while persons employed increased by 3.8% or 41,543. Texas has also seen greater growth in employed (2.4%) than labor force (1.5%), and the number unemployed decreased by 100,386 or 15.0%. Nationally, January civilian labor force is up by 0.9%, while employed is above the level of a year ago by 1.5%, and 960,000 fewer people (11.8%) are unemployed. Click here for graphs of the 2012-2018 growth rate trends for labor force and employment.

The Texas Workforce Commission will release February estimates on March 23.

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.



[1] As noted earlier in this article, the just completed benchmark revision process indicates that job growth was more robust in 2017 than preliminary estimates indicated. During 2017, slower than customary growth in the very large professional and business services industry appeared to be an important contributor to Austin’s lower than average growth during the year. The industry appeared to grow by only 1.5% between 2016 and 2017 (based on average annual jobs), while growth averaged 6.9% annually over the preceding six years. Revisions have half of the major industry sectors growing slower than preliminary data indicated and the other half growing faster, but the largest difference between preliminary 2017 and revised 2017 is in professional and business services jobs. Click here for graphs comparing estimates for the industry.


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.