Job growth & unemployment

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Posted on 03/13/2023 by Beverly Kerr

  • Austin added 71,000 jobs, growth of 5.8%, in the 12 months ending in January, making it the third best performing among the top 50 metros.
  • Austin made up all of 2020’s pandemic-related job losses by April 2021 and the metro ranks first for job growth since February 2020.
  • The fastest job growth over the last 12 months occurred in Austin’s leisure and hospitality (14.5%) and wholesale trade (11.7%) industries.
  • Austin's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 3.0% in January, up from 2.9% in December.

Nonfarm payroll jobs

Austin’s January nonfarm payroll jobs total is up by 71,000, or 5.8%, 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, December to January job growth was 0.2% in Austin, compared to 0.4% statewide and 0.3% nationally.

Combining job losses for March and April 2020, Austin lost 137,200 jobs, or 12.0%, due to the impact of COVID-19. By April 2021, Austin surpassed the jobs total it had in the last pre-pandemic month.[1] Since March 2022, Austin appears to be at or above the level of employment that might have been projected had there been no pandemic. In 2018 and 2019, the average monthly percent change in nonfarm payroll jobs was 0.33%. 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 January 2023, 31 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 12.7%, is the best performing major metro. Dallas (9.8%) and Fort Worth (6.9%) are also in the top 10. San Antonio (5.3%) ranks 11th, while Houston (2.9%) ranks 19th. Milwaukee ranks 50th with January 2023 jobs 3.4% below February 2020.

Austin’s year-over-year increase of 5.8%, or 71,000 jobs, makes it the third best performing among the 50 largest metro areas. Las Vegas is the fastest growing metro with 6.3% growth. Dallas (6.0%) ranks second and Fort Worth (5.8%) and Houston (4.9%) and are also in the top 10. San Antonio (4.5%) ranks 11th.

For the year ending in January, private sector job growth in the Austin MSA is 6.8%, or 70,600 jobs, with gains across all major private industry sectors. Austin's sizable government sector (15% of jobs) is up by 400 jobs or 0.2%, thus bringing the overall year-over-year job growth rate to 5.8%.

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 5.1% as the government sector, which accounts for 15% of total state employment, grew by a more moderate 2.3%. For the nation, private sector job growth was 3.6% for the 12 months ending in January with all private industries adding jobs. Overall job growth was lower, at 3.3%, as the government sector jobs grew by a more moderate 1.8%.

Jobs in January are down by 20,500 jobs or 1.6% from December in the not-seasonally-adjusted series for Austin. However, in the seasonally adjusted series, jobs are up by 2,400 or 0.2%. Seasonally adjusted jobs are up by 0.4% in Dallas, 0.3% in Houston, 0.2% in Fort Worth, and 0.1% in San Antonio. Statewide, seasonally adjusted jobs are up 48,600 or 0.4%. Nationally, seasonally adjusted jobs are up from December by 504,000 or 0.2%.

In Austin, each of the 11 major private industry sectors added jobs over the last 12 months, most notably leisure and hospitality (14.5% or 18,300 jobs), wholesale trade (11.7% or 6,000), information (8.6% or 4,200 jobs), professional and business services (8.4% or 21,600 jobs), and manufacturing (8.0% or 5,400). Construction and natural resources had the slowest growth (0.9% or 700 jobs).

Each of the 11 private industries in Austin have now surpassed pre-pandemic employment levels. Leisure and hospitality shed 62,100 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 150,000 in November. Though employment fell back to 144,200 in January, that total exceeds every other month except November and December. The industry’s January jobs total represents 11.2% of all jobs—slightly below its 12.0% pre-pandemic share. Other services (49,500 jobs in January) regained its pre-pandemic level of employment in May 2022, one month after leisure and hospitality.[2] Transportation, warehousing and utilities is the lone industry in Austin that did not lose jobs with the onset of the pandemic and it has seen the fastest growth, 43.7%, since February 2020.

Additional graphs: New/lost jobs by industry for Feb. 2020-Jan. 2023 and Dec. 2022-Jan. 2023 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 other services (8.9%) and information (7.6%). 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 19.8%. Construction and natural resources jobs are currently below February 2020 by 1.6%.

Nationally, all private industries added jobs over the 12 months ending in January, led by leisure and hospitality (7.2%). Construction and natural resources and education and health services are both up by 4.5%. 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 64,500 jobs, or 7.3%. Employment in goods-producing industries is up by 6,100 jobs or 4.3%. Statewide, private service-providing industries are up 500,000 or 5.4%, and goods-producing industries are up 121,300 or 6.6%.

Labor force, employment & unemployment

We also now have January 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 March 17. In December, Austin had the 22nd 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’s not-seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate is 3.3%, while the other major Texas metros range from 3.7% in Dallas to 4.5% in Houston. Fort Worth and San Antonio are at 3.8% and 3.9% respectively. Austin’s rate one year ago was 3.4%. The rates in the other major Texas metros are reduced from a year ago by 0.3 to 0.6 percentage points. The statewide rate is now 4.2%, down from 4.7% in January of last year. The national unemployment rate is 3.9%, down from 4.4% a year ago.

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

Travis County, at 3.2%, has the metro area’s lowest unemployment rate in January, while Caldwell County has the highest at 3.8%. The rate is 3.3% in Williamson County, 3.4% in Hays County, and 3.5% 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 3.9%, up from 3.8%. The national rate is 3.4%, improved from 3.5% in December.

Among Texas’ other major metros, Dallas has the next lowest seasonally adjusted January unemployment rate, 3.5%. Fort Worth is at 3.6% and San Antonio is at 3.7%, while Houston is at 4.4%. 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 estimates.)

In February 2020, before pandemic impacts, the number unemployed in Austin was 32,881. The number climbed to 133,963 in April and also exceeded 100,000 in May and June. In January 2023, unemployed stands at 46,404. That is 41% above the level of February 2020.

The Austin metro’s civilian labor force (employed plus unemployed) fell by 91,603 persons or 7.2% in March and April of 2020, while persons employed decreased by 192,685 or 15.6%. Labor force now stands at 11.8% above what it was in February 2020 and employed is estimated at 11.0% above.

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

Texas’ labor force is 5.1% above pre-pandemic February 2020, while employment 4.3% above. Nationally, civilian labor force and employment surpassed February 2020 for the first time in March 2022. In January, the national labor force is essentially 0.5% above February 2020, while employment is up by 0.4%.

Over the last 12 months, Austin’s labor force increased 3.6% and employed by 3.7%. Texas increased labor force by 2.5% and employed by 3.0%. Nationally, labor force growth was 1.4% and employment gained 2.0%.

The Texas Workforce Commission and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics will release February estimates on March 24.

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. Fort Worth and Nashville also made up pandemic-related job losses by April 2021.
  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