The Austin metropolitan area added 26,900 jobs, or 3.0%, in the 12 months ending in February, according to the latest release of payroll jobs numbers by the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) and the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS). The BLS release of this data for all U.S. metros shows that Austin’s 3.0% growth makes it the 24th best performing among the 50 largest metro areas. Dallas grew by 4.5%, ranking 6th. The other major Texas metros missed the top 10, but each had higher growth than Austin. San Antonio grew by 3.7% (11th) and Fort Worth and Houston grew by 3.4% (14th and 15th) between February 2014 and February 2015.
See the end of this page for a table comparing the longer run performance of this month’s fastest growing metros.
February is the fourth month in a row that Texas’ 12-month job growth rate (3.2% in February) exceeds that of Austin. As the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas pointed out in last week’s Austin Economic Indicators report, Austin typically outpaces the state. The last time that was not the case was a fleeting incidence in early 2009. The Dallas Fed offers indications that Austin will likely resume faster-than-statewide growth in 2015:
Labor market tightness, a growing issue across much of Texas the past several years, has been particularly acute in Austin due to the low unemployment rate and the higher proportion of skilled labor demanded. Nevertheless, indicators such as help-wanted advertising continue to point toward underlying strength in the Austin economy. Given its relative insulation from recent declines in the energy sector, however, Austin’s growth may exceed that of the state during 2015 ...(*)
For the year ending in February, private sector job growth in the Austin MSA was 3.5%, or 25,300 jobs, and with all private industry divisions contributing to the growth. Austin's large government sector (nearly 19% of jobs) saw modest growth over the last 12 months, gaining only 1,600 jobs or 0.9%, thus bringing the overall job growth rate to 3.0%.
Texas saw slightly stronger net private sector job growth of 3.6% with all private industry divisions adding jobs over the last 12 months. As with Austin, total job growth statewide was lower, 3.2%, due to the only moderate growth (1.0%) in the government sector, which accounts for over 16% of total state employment. For the nation, private sector growth was 2.6% for the 12 months ending in March (national data is presently a month ahead of state and local data), with all private industries adding jobs. Overall job growth was a more modest 2.3% because the government sector gained only 0.3%.
Jobs in February are up from the preceding month by 8,600 or 0.9% in the not-seasonally-adjusted series for Austin, while January-to-February change on a seasonally adjusted basis shows a gain of 4,700 jobs or 0.5%, well ahead of the state, where the gain was only 0.1% in February. On a seasonally adjusted basis, jobs also rose in February in San Antonio (0.4%), Houston (0.3%), and Dallas (0.2%). Jobs dropped by 0.1% in Fort Worth. Nationally seasonally adjusted jobs rose 0.2% in February and 0.1% in March.
In Austin, the industry adding the most jobs was leisure and hospitality, which grew by 5,500 jobs or 5.4% over the last 12 months. Construction and natural resources grew faster, by 6.1% or 2,900 jobs. Also growing at faster-than-average rates were information (4.9% or 1,200 jobs); education and health services (4.6% or 4,800 jobs); transportation, warehousing and utilities (4.6% or 700 jobs); and other services (4.1% or 1,600 jobs).
Statewide, construction and natural resources grew fastest and added the most jobs over the last 12 months —6.5% and 60,200 jobs. Three other industries were also relatively fast growing: leisure and hospitality by 5.1%; transportation, warehousing and utilities gained 5.0%; and wholesale trade grew by 4.6%.
Nationally, professional and business services added the most jobs (659,000) and gained 3.5% over the 12 months ending in March. Construction and natural resources saw the largest percent change (4.2%). Transportation, warehousing and utilities and leisure and hospitality also grew at faster-than-average rates (3.3% and 3.4% respectively). No industry lost jobs.
The net gain for private service-providing industries in Austin is 22,100 jobs, or 3.6%, over the last 12 months and the net gain for goods producing industries is 3,200, or 3.0%. Statewide, private service-providing industries are up 279,500 or 3.6% and goods producing industries are up 64,600 and also 3.6%.
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 that we often do a ranking of will not be released until tomorrow, April 8. In January, Austin had the 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 3.4%, while the other major metros range from 3.8% in San Antonio to 4.4% in Houston. Dallas and Fort Worth are at 4.1%. Austin’s rate one year ago was 4.6%. The rates in Texas’ other major metros are 1.1 to 1.5 percentage points improved on the rates seen a year ago. Within the Austin MSA, Travis County has the lowest unemployment rate in February, at 3.3%, while Caldwell County has the highest at 4.3%. The rate is 3.5% in Hays and Williamson Counties and 3.9% in Bastrop County. The statewide not-seasonally-adjusted rate is now 4.3%, compared to 5.7% in February of last year. The March national rate is 5.6% compared to 6.8% in March of last year.
On a seasonally adjusted basis, Austin’s February unemployment rate is 3.4%, down from 3.6% in January. The last time seasonally adjusted unemployment fell as low as 3.4% in Austin was March of 2001.
San Antonio has the next lowest seasonally adjusted rate at 3.8%, while Dallas, Fort Worth, and Houston are at 4.0%, 4.1% and 4.2% respectively. February rates are down from January in each metro by 0.1 to 0.2 points. The statewide rate is 4.3%, down from 4.4% in January. Nationally, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell from 5.7% in January to 5.5% in February and remains at 5.5% in March. 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 declined. In February 2014, Austin’s number of unemployed was 47,742, and has decreased by 11,727 or 24.6%, to 36,015. Civilian labor force (employed plus unemployed) increased by 7,658 or 0.7% in the last 12 months, while persons employed increased by 19,385 or 1.9%. Texas is also showing larger growth in employed (2.2%) than in labor force (0.8%), and 170,162 fewer people (23.1%) are unemployed. Nationally, February civilian labor force is up by 0.4%, while employed is above the level of a year ago by 1.8%, and 1.86 million fewer people (17.6%) are unemployed.
Texas Workforce Commission will release March estimates on April 17.
While there may be some consternation in seeing Austin currently residing in the middle of the pack for job growth, it makes sense also keep in mind longer run performance trends. For almost any multi-year period, Austin ranks at or near the top among large metros. Between 2004 and 2014 Austin experienced annual average job growth of 3.1% while top-ranked San Jose averaged 1.5% annually over the decade (due to slower recovery from the 2001 dot-com recession and deeper job losses in the most recent recession). For pre-recession (Feb. 2007) until now, the top ranked metros would be Austin, Houston, and San Francisco. For the period since 2011, when job growth had generally resumed, the top performers are San Francisco, San Jose, and Austin.
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.
Vice President of Research, Beverly Kerr, joined the Chamber’s Economic Development Department in 2004, following 10 years in a similar role with the Kansas City Area Development Council. Beverly earned an M.A. in economics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.