Job growth & unemployment

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Posted on 04/18/2022 by Beverly Kerr

  • Austin made up all of 2020’s pandemic-related job losses by last May and the metro currently has 80,200 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 fourth best over the last 12 months.
  • Austin’s leisure and hospitality industry added 3,300 jobs in March, narrowing the deficit from pre-pandemic February 2020 to 1,900 jobs or 1.4%.
  • Austin's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 2.8% in March, improved from 3.2% in February.

Nonfarm payroll jobs

Austin’s nonfarm payroll jobs total as of March is 1,222,700 according to Friday's 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 7.0%, is the best performing major metro. Dallas (5.5%) and Fort Worth (2.8%) are also in the top 10. San Antonio (1.1%) ranks 15th, while Houston (-0.9%) ranks 21st. New York ranks 50th with March 2022 jobs 4.6% below February 2020.

Texas regained its pandemic-related job losses in October in the not-seasonally-adjusted series. Total nonfarm jobs are 255,700 jobs or 2.0% above February 2020, while the U.S. is 1.0 million jobs or 0.7% below.

Austin’s year-over-year increase of 8.5%, or 101,700 jobs, makes it the fourth best performing among the 50 largest metro areas. Dallas (7.6%) is also in the top 10. Fort Worth (6.0%), San Antonio (5.3%), and Houston (5.0%) rank 13th, 22nd, and 28th, respectively.

For the year ending in March, private sector job growth in the Austin MSA is 10.3%, or 97,000 jobs, with gains across all major private industry sectors. Austin's sizable government sector (15.9% of jobs) is down by 1,400 jobs or 0.7%, thus bringing the overall year-over-year job growth rate to 8.5%.

Texas saw net private sector job growth of 6.7% with all private industry sectors adding jobs over the last 12 months. Total job growth was 5.9% as the government sector, which accounts for 15.5% of total state employment, grew by only 1.6%. For the nation, private sector job growth was 5.2% for the 12 months ending in February with all private industries adding jobs. Overall job growth was lower, at 4.6%, as the government sector jobs grew by a moderate 1.3%.

Jobs in March are up by 7,000 jobs or 0.6% from February in the not-seasonally-adjusted series for Austin. In the seasonally adjusted series, jobs are up by 2,600 or 0.2%. Seasonally adjusted jobs are up by 0.5% in Fort Worth, 0.3% in Dallas, unchanged in Houston, and down by 0.3% in San Antonio. Statewide, seasonally adjusted jobs are up 30,100 or 0.2%. Nationally, seasonally adjusted jobs are up from February by 431,000 or 0.3%.

In Austin, all 11 major private industry sectors added jobs over the last 12 months, most notably leisure and hospitality (19.5% or 21,600 jobs), information (15.2% or 6,400 jobs), professional and business services (13.5% or 29,500), and wholesale trade (11.3% or 5,200).

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 23 months, the industry has regained 60,300 of those jobs. As of March, employment stands at 132,400, 1.4% below February 2020. The other private industry that has not regained February 2020’s level of employment is other services (below by 3.4% or 1,600 jobs).

Additional graphs: New/lost jobs by industry, Feb.-Mar. 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 (13.2%) and information (11.4%). Eight industries currently have more jobs now than they did in February 2020, most notably transportation, warehousing and utilities, which is up by 10.9%. Three private industries, construction and natural resources, manufacturing, and other services, have yet to regain 2020 losses.

Nationally, all private industries added jobs over the 12 months ending in March, led by leisure and hospitality (16.1%) and transportation, warehousing and utilities (6.5%). Relative to February 2020, six industries (transportation, warehousing and utilities; professional and business services; retail trade; information; financial activities; and construction and natural resources) have recovered pandemic-related job losses.

Over the last 12 months, the net gain for private service-providing industries in Austin is 91,500 jobs, or 11.4%. Employment in goods producing industries is up by 5,500 jobs or 4.1%. Statewide, private service-providing industries are up 614,000 or 7.1%, and goods producing industries are up 87,600 or 4.9%.

Labor force, employment & unemployment

We also now have March 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 27. In February, Austin had the 15th lowest rate of unemployment among the 50 largest metros. Unemployment numbers for March show Austin’s performance relative to the state and other major Texas metros being sustained.

In March, Austin’s not-seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate is 2.7%, while the other major Texas metros range from 3.3% in Dallas to 4.4% in Houston. Fort Worth and San Antonio are at 3.4% and 3.5%, respectively. Austin’s rate one year ago was 4.8%. The rates in the other major Texas metros are reduced from a year ago by 2.5 to 2.8 percentage points. The statewide rate is now 3.9%, down from 6.5% in March of last year. The national unemployment rate is 3.8%, down from 6.2% 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 2.7% in March, while Caldwell County has the highest at 3.2%. The rate is 2.8% in Hays County and 3.1% in Bastrop County.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, Austin’s March unemployment rate is 2.8%, improved from 3.2% in February. The statewide rate is 4.4%, improved from 4.7%, and the national rate is 3.6%, improved from 3.8% in February.

Among Texas’ other major metros, Dallas and Fort Worth have the next lowest seasonally adjusted unemployment rates, both 3.3%, in March, while San Antonio is at 3.6%, and Houston’s rate is 4.6%. 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 March 2022, unemployed stands at 36,641. That is 13.4% above the level of February 2020. That the number of unemployed in Austin presently exceeds pre-pandemic levels is more a reflection of labor force growth than lack of recovery from the pandemic.

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 7.7% above what it was in February 2020 and employed is estimated at 7.6% above. Over the last month, labor force grew by 0.3% and employed increased by 1.0%.

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

Texas’ labor force is 467,658 or 3.3% above pre-pandemic February 2020, while employment is higher by 385,558 or 2.8%. Thus, the number of unemployed is up by 82,100 or 17.1%. Nationally, March 2022 civilian labor force and employment surpassed February 2020 for the first time. Labor force is up by 39,000 or 0.02% and employed up by 89,000 or 0.06%, and 50,000 fewer people (0.8%) are unemployed than in February 2020.

The Texas Workforce Commission and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics will release April estimates on May 20.

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. The Central Texas Economy in Perspective page provides an archive of past articles on the labor market and many other topics.

Related Categories: Central Texas Economy in Perspective