Job growth & unemployment

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Posted on 03/31/2020 by Beverly Kerr

  • Austin added 36,700 net new jobs, growth of 3.3%, in the 12 months ending in February, making Austin the fastest growing major metro.
  • Construction and natural resources grew by 8.0% (5,300 jobs), making it Austin’s fastest growing industry, while professional and business services added the most jobs, 6,500 (or 3.3%), over the last 12 months.
  • Austin's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 2.6%, unchanged from January.

Friday's release of new labor market data by federal and state workforce agencies represents estimates through February. As such, no coronavirus pandemic impacts are reflected in this data. March data will arrive on April 17, however those estimates will not fully represent conditions employers and the workforce experienced through the end of the month. Both of the surveys that provide labor market estimates relate to a particular week or pay period in the month. In the household survey, the reference period is generally the calendar week that contains the 12th day of the month. In the establishment survey, the reference period is the pay period including the 12th.

Austin’s robust economic conditions in advance of the fallout from the pandemic may have some measure of benefit to our relative vulnerability in the coming recession. However, other local factors such as exposure to the virus, government policies in reaction to the virus, and industry presence will also influence. Labor market data vendor Chmura produced a COVID-19 Economic Vulnerability Index earlier last week based on industry presence in an area and their expected job losses. Austin has an index of 99.87—essentially the same as the nation, for which the index value is 100. A March 27 forecast from the Waco-based Perryman Group estimated pandemic-related job losses for Texas' major metros, with Austin's totaling almost 77,400. Also on the 27th, the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas estimated that state job growth this year will be in the range of 0.5 to 1.0 percentage points below the national average.

The time spans of three of the graphs below have been expanded to include the last two recessions.

Nonfarm payroll jobs

The Austin metropolitan area added 36,500 net new jobs, or 3.3%, in the 12 months ending in February, 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 3.3% growth makes it the second best performing among the 50 largest metro areas. Dallas, Fort Worth, and San Antonio, gaining 3.6%, 2.9%, and 2.8% respectively, also made the top ten. Houston’s 2.2% increase ranked 15th.

For the year ending in February, private sector growth in the Austin MSA is 4.0%, or 36,500 jobs, with all private industry divisions adding jobs. Austin's sizable government sector (17% of jobs) grew by a moderate 200 jobs or 0.1%, thus bringing the overall growth rate to 3.3%.

Texas saw net private sector job growth of 2.6% with all private industries adding jobs over the last 12 months. Total job growth was 2.4% as the government sector, which accounts for 15% of total state employment, saw slighter growth (1.4%). For the nation, private sector growth is 1.6% for the 12 months ending in February with all private industries, but one, adding jobs. Although government sector growth was slower (1.0%), overall job growth is also 1.6%.

Jobs in February are up by 10,100 or 0.9% from January in the not-seasonally-adjusted series for Austin. In the seasonally adjusted series, growth is also positive, up by 3,900 jobs or 0.3%. Seasonally adjusted jobs are up by 0.6% in Houston, 0.5% in Fort Worth,0.3% in Dallas, and essentially unchanged in San Antonio. Statewide, seasonally adjusted jobs are up 50,400 or 0.4%. Nationally, seasonally adjusted jobs are up from January by 0.2%.

In Austin, professional and business services added the most jobs, 6,500 (3.3%), over the last 12 months. The fastest growing industry was construction and natural resources, which grew by 8.0% or 5,300 jobs. Also growing at faster-than-average rates are transportation, warehousing and utilities (7.4% or 1,700); other services (6.0% or 2,800); information (5.7% or 2,100); and financial activities (5.3% or 3,400).

Statewide, professional and business services added the most jobs, 62,900 (3.6%), over the last 12 months. The fastest growing industries were other services and transportation, warehousing and utilities (both up 4.7%). Leisure and hospitality (3.4%) and education and health services (3.3%) were also relatively fast growing.

Nationally, education and health services grew fastest, adding 2.7% over the 12 months ending in February. Leisure and hospitality (2.6%), construction and natural resources (2.3%), and professional and business services (2.0%) were also relatively fast growing. Retail trade jobs fell by 0.2%.

The net gain for private service-providing industries in Austin is 29,300 jobs, or 3.7%, over the last 12 months. Employment in goods producing industries is up by 7,200 jobs or 5.6%. Statewide, private service-providing industries are up 254,000, or 2.0%, and goods producing industries are up 25,700 jobs, or 1.3%.

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 until April 8. In January, Austin had the 6th 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 is at 2.6%, while the other major metros range from 3.1% in San Antonio to 3.9% in Houston. Dallas and Fort Worth are each at 3.2%. Austin’s rate one year ago was 2.8%. The rates in the other major Texas metros are also improved from a year ago. The statewide not-seasonally-adjusted rate is now 3.6%, improved from 3.7% in February of last year. The national unemployment rate is 3.8%, improved from 4.1% a year ago.

Within the Austin MSA, Travis County has the lowest unemployment rate in February, at 2.6%, while Caldwell County has the highest at 3.2%. The rate is 2.7% in Hays County, 2.8% in Williamson County, and 2.9% in Bastrop County.

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

Among Texas’ other major metros, San Antonio has the next lowest seasonally adjusted unemployment rate, 3.0%, in February, while Dallas and Fort Worth are at 3.1%, and Houston’s rate is 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 February 2019, Austin’s number of unemployed was 34,528. Over the last 12 months, the unemployed declined by 1,116 or 3.2%, to 33,412. 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 34,516 persons or 2.8% from one year ago, while persons employed increased by 35,632 or 3.0%.

Texas’ employment growth (291,771 or 2.2%) also exceeds labor force growth (284,780 or 2.0%). Thus, the number of unemployed decreased by 6,991 or 1.4%. Nationally, February civilian labor force is up by 1.44 million or 0.9%, while employed is above the level of a year ago by 1.85 million or 1.2%, and 407,000 fewer people (6.1%) are unemployed.

The TWC and the BLS will release March estimates on April 17.

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