Job growth & unemployment

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Posted on 03/14/2022 by Beverly Kerr

  • Austin made up all of 2020’s pandemic-related job losses by last May and currently has 58,100 more jobs than it had in February 2020.
  • Austin ranks as the best performing major job market since the beginning of the pandemic and the 6th best over the last 12 months.
  • Austin’s leisure and hospitality industry employment remains 8,700 or 6.5% below February 2020.
  • Austin's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 3.2% in January, unchanged from December.

Nonfarm payroll jobs

Austin’s nonfarm payroll jobs total as of January is 1,200,600 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 1,142,500 jobs. Combining job losses for March and April 2020, Austin lost 137,100 jobs, or 12.0%. In May 2021, Austin surpassed the jobs total it had in the last pre-pandemic month.

This month, Austin and 12 other major metros have regained their pre-pandemic level of jobs. Comparing metros based on where they stand relative to pre-pandemic February 2020, Austin, up 5.1%, is the best performing major metro. Dallas (3.8%) was the second best and is the only other Texas major metro in the top 10. Fort Worth (0.7%) and San Antonio (0.1%) rank 12th and 13th, while Houston (-2.1%) ranks 22nd. Pittsburgh ranks 50th with January 2022 jobs 6.1% below February 2020.

Texas regained its pandemic-related job losses in October in the not seasonally adjusted series. Total nonfarm jobs are 58,300 jobs or 0.5% above February 2020, while the U.S. is 3.5 million jobs or 2.3% below.

Austin’s year-over-year increase of 8.3%, or 92,300 jobs, makes it the 6th best performing among the 50 largest metro areas. Dallas (7.0%), San Antonio (5.6%), Houston (5.2%), and Fort Worth (5.1%) rank 8th, 19th, 27th, and 28th, respectively.

For the year ending in January, private sector job growth in the Austin MSA is 10.2%, or 94,300 jobs, with gains across all major private industry sectors. Austin's sizable government sector (15.9% of jobs) is down by 2,000 jobs or 2.0%, thus bringing the overall year-over-year job growth rate to 8.3%.

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 1.3%. For the nation, private sector job growth was 5.2% for the 12 months ending in January with all private industries adding jobs. Overall job growth was lower, at 4.6%, as government sector jobs grew by a moderate 1.7%.

Jobs in January are down by 19,600 jobs or 1.6% from December in the not-seasonally-adjusted series for Austin. A substantial drop from December to January is common in Austin’s not seasonally adjusted jobs numbers. In the seasonally adjusted series, jobs are essentially unchanged (up by 600 or 0.0%). Seasonally adjusted jobs are up by 0.5% in Dallas and San Antonio, unchanged in Houston, and down by 0.6% in Fort Worth. Statewide, seasonally adjusted jobs are up 29,000 or 0.2%. Nationally, seasonally adjusted jobs are up from December by 481,000 or 0.3%.

In Austin, all 11 major private industry sectors added jobs over the last 12 months, most notably leisure and hospitality (19.2% or 20,200 jobs), information (16.0% or 6,600 jobs), professional and business services (15.5% or 33,400), and wholesale trade (10.5% or 4,700).

Nine private industries in Austin have surpassed pre-pandemic employment and two have yet to regain March and April 2020’s losses. Leisure and hospitality shed 62,200 jobs in March and April of 2020 (45% of all jobs lost). With positive growth in 16 of the last 21 months, the industry has regained 53,500 of those jobs. As of January, employment stands at 125,600, 6.5% below February 2020. The other private industry that has not regained February 2020’s level of employment is other services (below by 6.3% or 3,000 jobs).

Additional graphs: New/lost jobs by industry, Dec. 2021-Jan. 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. As in Austin, the two industries with the most significant growth are leisure and hospitality (13.3%) and information (9.9%). Only six industries currently have more jobs now than they did in February 2020, most notably transportation, warehousing and utilities, which is up by 10.1%. 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 January, led by leisure and hospitality (19.5%); transportation, warehousing and utilities (6.9%); and information (6.1%). Relative to February 2020, transportation, warehousing and utilities; information; 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 88,100 jobs, or 11.2%. Employment in goods producing industries is up by 6,200 jobs or 4.7%. Statewide, private service-providing industries are up 593,100 or 6.9%, and goods producing industries are up 84,300 or 4.8%.

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 18. In December, Austin had the 14th 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 4.1% in Dallas to 5.5% in Houston. Fort Worth and San Antonio are at 4.3%. Austin’s rate one year ago was 5.2%. The rates in the other major Texas metros are reduced from a year ago by 2.1 to 2.4 percentage points. The statewide rate is now 4.8%, down from 7.0% in January of last year. The national unemployment rate is 4.4%, down from 6.8% 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 and Williamson Counties have the lowest unemployment rates at 3.3% in January, while Caldwell County has the highest at 4.1%. The rate is 3.5% in Hays County and 3.8% in Bastrop County.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, Austin’s January unemployment rate is 3.2%, unchanged from December. The statewide rate is 4.8%, also unchanged, and the national rate is 4.0%, up from 3.9% in December.

Among Texas’ other major metros, Dallas has the next lowest seasonally adjusted unemployment rate, 3.9%, in January, while Fort Worth and San Antonio are at 4.1%, and Houston’s rate is 5.2%. 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 data.)

In February 2020, before pandemic impacts, the number unemployed in Austin was 32,302. The number climbed to 130,460 in April and also exceeded 100,000 in May and June. In January 2021, unemployed stands at 44,483, 37.7% 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 6.1% above what it was in February 2020 and employed is estimated at 5.3% above. Over the last month, labor force declined by 0.3% and employed fell by 0.8%.

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

Texas’ labor force is 315,996 or 2.2% above pre-pandemic February 2020, while employment is higher by 102,369 or 0.8%. Thus, the number of unemployed is up by 213,627 or 44.4%. Nationally, January 2021 civilian labor force is down by 1.4 million or 0.9% from February 2020, while employed is below the level seen in February 2020 by about 2.4 million or 1.5%, and 989,000 more people (15.9%) are unemployed.

The Texas Workforce Commission and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics will release February estimates on March 25.

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