Job growth & unemployment

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Posted on 03/28/2022 by Beverly Kerr

  • Austin made up all of 2020’s pandemic-related job losses by last May and currently has 71,500 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 third best over the last 12 months.
  • Austin’s leisure and hospitality industry added 4,600 jobs in February, narrowing the deficit from pre-pandemic February 2020 to 3,400 jobs or 2.5%.
  • Austin's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 3.2% in February, unchanged from January.

Nonfarm payroll jobs

Austin’s nonfarm payroll jobs total as of February is 1,214,000 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 15 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 6.3%, is the best performing major metro. Dallas (4.7%) and Fort Worth (1.8%) are also in the top 10. San Antonio (1.3%) ranks 12th, while Houston (-0.5%) ranks 17th. Pittsburgh ranks 50th with February 2022 jobs 5.5% below February 2020.

Texas regained its pandemic-related job losses in October in the not seasonally adjusted series. Total nonfarm jobs are 234,200 jobs or 1.8% above February 2020, while the U.S. is 2.0 million jobs or 1.3% below.

Austin’s year-over-year increase of 9.1%, or 101,700 jobs, makes it the third best performing among the 50 largest metro areas. Dallas (7.8%), San Antonio (6.8%), Fort Worth (6.5%), and Houston (6.5%) rank sixth, ninth, 10th, and 11th, respectively.

For the year ending in February, private sector job growth in the Austin MSA is 11.2%, or 103,400 jobs, with gains across all major private industry sectors. Austin's sizable government sector (15.9% of jobs) is down by 1,700 jobs or 0.9%, thus bringing the overall year-over-year job growth rate to 9.1%.

Texas saw net private sector job growth of 7.9% with all private industry sectors adding jobs over the last 12 months. Total job growth was 6.9% as the government sector, which accounts for 15.5% of total state employment, grew by only 1.5%. For the nation, private sector job growth was 5.4% for the 12 months ending in February with all private industries adding jobs. Overall job growth was lower, at 4.8%, as government sector jobs grew by a moderate 1.8%.

Jobs in February are up by 11,700 jobs or 1.0% from January in the not-seasonally-adjusted series for Austin. In the seasonally adjusted series, jobs are up by 5,100 or 0.4%. 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 77,800 or 0.6%. Nationally, seasonally adjusted jobs are up from January by 678,000 or 0.5%.

In Austin, all 11 major private industry sectors added jobs over the last 12 months, most notably leisure and hospitality (24.1% or 25,400 jobs), information (15.6% or 6,500 jobs), professional and business services (14.9% or 32,500), and wholesale trade (10.6% or 4,800).

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 18 of the last 22 months, the industry has regained 58,800 of those jobs. As of February, employment stands at 130,900, 2.5% below February 2020. The other private industry that has not regained February 2020’s level of employment is other services (below by 10.7% or 5,100 jobs).[1]

Additional graphs: New/lost jobs by industry, Jan.-Feb. 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 (16.5%) and information (11.5%). Only six industries currently have more jobs now than they did in February 2020, most notably transportation, warehousing and utilities, which is up by 11.2%. 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 February, led by leisure and hospitality (17.4%); transportation, warehousing and utilities (7.0%); and information (5.9%). Relative to February 2020, five industries (transportation, warehousing and utilities; information; professional and business services; retail trade; and financial activities) have recovered pandemic-related job losses.

Over the last 12 months, the net gain for private service-providing industries in Austin is 95,800 jobs, or 12.1%. Employment in goods producing industries is up by 7,600 jobs or 5.7%. Statewide, private service-providing industries are up 711,100 or 8.3%, and goods producing industries are up 107,900 or 6.2%.

Labor force, employment & unemployment

We also now have February 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 April 6. In January, Austin had the 10th lowest rate of unemployment among the 50 largest metros. Unemployment numbers for February show Austin’s performance relative to the state and other major Texas metros being sustained.

In February, Austin’s not-seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate is 3.3%, while the other major Texas metros range from 4.0% in Dallas to 5.3% in Houston. Fort Worth and San Antonio are at 4.2%. Austin’s rate one year ago was 5.1%. The rates in the other major Texas metros are reduced from a year ago by 2.1 to 2.3 percentage points. The statewide rate is now 4.7%, down from 6.8% in February of last year. The national unemployment rate is 4.1%, down from 6.6% 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 February, while Caldwell County has the highest at 4.0%. The rate is 3.5% in Hays County and 3.8% in Bastrop County.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, Austin’s February unemployment rate is 3.2%, unchanged from January. The statewide rate is 4.7%, improved from 4.8%, and the national rate is 3.8%, improved from 4.0% in January.

Among Texas’ other major metros, Dallas has the next lowest seasonally adjusted unemployment rate, 3.9%, in February, while Fort Worth is at 4.0%, San Antonio is 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 February 2022, unemployed stands at 44,912, 39.0% 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 7.2% above what it was in February 2020 and employed is estimated at 6.4% above. Over the last month, labor force and employed both increased by 1.0%.

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

Texas’ labor force is 471,499 or 3.4% above pre-pandemic February 2020, while employment is higher by 266,748 or 2.0%. Thus, the number of unemployed is up by 204,751 or 42.6%. Nationally, February 2022 civilian labor force is down by 510,000 or 0.3% from February 2020, while employed is below the level seen in February 2020 by about 1.1 million or 0.7%, and 564,000 more people (9.1%) are unemployed.

The Texas Workforce Commission and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics will release March estimates on April 15.

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. Austin’s other services industry is unusual in seeing a 9.8% decline in jobs over the last three months. Statewide, employment in other services also declined in each of the last three months, but the total drop amounted to only 1.7%. Other services is largely made up of repair and maintenance services (27%), personal and laundry services (37%), and religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations (29%). Detail on the subsectors of the other services industry in Austin is not available from the monthly Current Employment Statistics survey. The Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages provides deeper industry detail, but that data lags about six months and, so, does not illuminate which other services subsectors account for the 4,600 jobs lost since November. As the CES is a sample survey subject to sampling error, we will watch to see if the anomalous trend shakes out differently, or not, with next month’s revision of the February estimate.

Related Categories: Central Texas Economy in Perspective