Job growth & unemployment

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Posted on 03/17/2020 by Beverly Kerr

  • Austin added 39,400 net new jobs, growth of 3.6%, in the 12 months ending in January, making Austin the fastest growing major metro.
  • Construction and natural resources grew by 8.7% (5,700 jobs), making it Austin’s fastest growing industry, while professional and business services added the most jobs, 7,700 (or 4.0%), over the last 12 months.
  • Austin's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 2.6%, up from 2.5% in December.

Nonfarm payroll jobs

The Austin metropolitan area added 39,400 net new jobs, or 3.6%, in the 12 months ending in January, according to Friday's releases of preliminary Current Employment Statistics (CES) payroll jobs numbers by the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Austin’s 3.6% growth makes it the best performing among the 50 largest metro areas.(Footnote) Dallas and San Antonio, gaining 3.5% and 2.9% respectively, also made the top ten. Fort Worth ranked 12th with 2.6% growth and Houston’s 2.0% increase ranked 15th.

For the year ending in January, private sector growth in the Austin MSA is 4.3%, or 38,800 jobs, with all private industry divisions adding jobs. Austin's sizable government sector (17% of jobs) grew by a moderate 600 jobs or 0.3%, thus bringing the overall growth rate to 3.6%.

Texas saw net private sector job growth of 2.6% with all private industries, but one, adding jobs over the last 12 months. Total job growth was 2.5% as the government sector, which accounts for 15% of total state employment, saw slighter growth (1.8%). For the nation, private sector growth is 1.6% for the 12 months ending in January with all private industries, but one, adding jobs. Overall job growth is slightly under that, at 1.5%, because of slower (1.0%) government sector growth.

Jobs in January are down by 15,400 or 1.3% from December in the not-seasonally-adjusted series for Austin. In the seasonally adjusted series, growth is positive, up by 1,400 jobs or 0.1%. Seasonally adjusted jobs are up by 0.3% in Fort Worth, 0.2% in Houston, 0.1% in San Antonio, and essentially unchanged in Dallas (that is, down by just 0.03%). Statewide, seasonally adjusted jobs are up 19,500 or 0.2%. Nationally, seasonally adjusted jobs are up from December by 0.2%.

In Austin, professional and business services added the most jobs, 7,700 (4.0%), over the last 12 months. The fastest growing industry was construction and natural resources, which grew by 8.7% or 5,700 jobs. Also growing at faster-than-average rates are transportation, warehousing and utilities (7.4% or 1,700); information (7.1% or 2,600); other services (5.7% or 2,600); and financial activities (5.5% or 3,500).

Statewide, education and health services added the most jobs, 55,300 (3.2%), over the last 12 months. The fastest growing industries were transportation, warehousing and utilities (5.0%); other services (4.3%); leisure and hospitality (3.6%), and financial activities (3.3%). Retail trade jobs fell by 0.1%.

Nationally, education and health services grew fastest, adding 2.8% over the 12 months ending in January. Leisure and hospitality (2.3%) and professional and business services (2.1%) were also relatively fast growing. Retail trade jobs fell by 0.4%.

The net gain for private service-providing industries in Austin is 31,900 jobs, or 4.1%, over the last 12 months. Employment in goods producing industries is up by 6,900 jobs or 5.4%. Statewide, private service-providing industries are up 244,800, or 2.8%, and goods producing industries are up 27,900 jobs, or 1.5%.

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 until March 20. In December, Austin had the 9thlowest 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 2.7%, while the other major metros range from 3.2% in San Antonio to 4.1% in Houston. Dallas and Fort Worth are each at 3.3%. Austin’s rate one year ago was 3.2%. The rates in the other major Texas metros are also improved from a year ago. The statewide not-seasonally-adjusted rate is now 3.8%, improved from 4.1% in January of last year. The national unemployment rate is 4.0%, improved from 4.4% a year ago.

Within the Austin MSA, Travis County has the lowest unemployment rate in January, at 2.6%, while Caldwell County has the highest at 3.4%. The rate is 2.9% in Hays and Williamson Counties, and 3.1% in Bastrop County.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, Austin’s January unemployment rate is 2.6%, up from 2.5% in December; the statewide rate is 3.5%, unchanged from December; and the national rate is 3.6%, up from 3.5%.

Among Texas’ other major metros, Dallas, Fort Worth, and San Antonio each have a 3.1% seasonally adjusted rate in January, while Houston is at 3.8%. 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 down from one year ago, the number unemployed has also fallen. In January 2019, Austin’s number of unemployed was 39,226. Over the last 12 months, the unemployed declined by 4,737 or 12.1%, to 34,489. This is due to a larger increase in the number employed, compared to labor force. The Austin metro’s civilian labor force (employed plus unemployed) increased by 33,327 persons or 2.7% from one year ago, while persons employed increased by 38,064 or 3.2%.

Texas’ employment growth (289,221 or 2.2%) also exceeds labor force growth (249,363 or 1.8%). Thus, the number of unemployed decreased by 39,858 or 7.0%. Nationally, January civilian labor force is up by 1.4 million or 0.9%, while employed is above the level of a year ago by 2.0 million or 1.3%, and 636,000 fewer people (8.9%) are unemployed.

The TWC and the BLS will release February estimates on March 27.

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.


Rounding to one decimal point, Austin and Salt Lake City are tied, but growth is 3.62% for Austin and 3.57% for Salt Lake City with percent change rounded to two decimal points.

Related Categories: Central Texas Economy in Perspective