Job growth & unemployment

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Posted on 04/20/2021 by Beverly Kerr

  • Adding jobs in 10 of the last 11 months, Austin has regained 86% of last spring’s pandemic-related job losses.
  • Austin’s 1.3% year-over-year job loss is more moderate than the declines seen in all but one other major metro.
  • Austin’s leisure and hospitality industry added 5,800 jobs in March and has seen 64% of the 61,500 jobs lost in March and April of 2020 return.
  • Austin's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate decreased from 5.3% in February to 5.1% in March.

Nonfarm payroll jobs

The Austin metropolitan area added 14,700 jobs in March, 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 nonfarm payroll jobs total as of March is 1,123,100. In February 2020, before the impacts from COVID-19, Austin had an estimated 1,142,400 jobs. Combining job losses for March and April, Austin lost 137,000 jobs, or 12.0%. Positive growth in 10 of the last 11 months has brought back 117,700, or 86%, of those jobs.

Austin’s year-over-year decline of 1.3%, or 14,700 jobs, makes it the second best performing among the 50 largest metro areas. San Antonio and Dallas also ranked in the top 10. Fort Worth’s loss of 3.3% ranks 13th and Houston’s 5.5% deficit ranks 26th. Four major metros—Las Vegas, Orlando, San Francisco, and New York—remain down by more than 10% compared to March 2020.

For the year ending in March, private sector job loss in the Austin MSA is 1.0%, or 9,800 jobs, with losses occurring in three of the 11 major private industry sectors. Austin's sizable government sector (17% of jobs) is down by 2.5% (4,700 jobs), thus bringing the overall year-over-year job loss rate to 1.3%.

Texas saw net private sector job losses of 3.1% with all but three private industry sectors losing jobs over the last 12 months. Total job losses were 3.0% as the government sector, which accounts for 15% of total state employment, had slighter losses (2.5%). For the nation, private sector losses were 4.3% for the 12 months ending in March with all private industries losing jobs. Overall job loss was slightly higher at 4.4% as government sector’s losses were 5.0%.

Jobs in March are up by 14,700 jobs or 1.3% from February in the not-seasonally-adjusted series for Austin. In the seasonally adjusted series, jobs increased by 9,000 or 0.9%. Seasonally adjusted jobs are also up by 0.9% in Houston, and 0.7% in Fort Worth, 0.5% in San Antonio, and 0.4% in Dallas. Statewide, seasonally adjusted jobs are up 99,000 or 0.8%. Nationally, seasonally adjusted jobs are up from February by 916,000 or 0.6%.

In Austin, eight private industry sectors have positive growth over the last 12 months, most notably transportation and warehousing (14.3% or 3,500 jobs), construction and natural resources (5.7% or 4,000), and professional and business services (5.0% or 10,100).

The greatest number of job losses, and greatest percent change, over the last year happened in leisure and hospitality (15.5% or 20,600 jobs). Other services saw a 7.4% decline (3,500 jobs) and education and health services is also notably down (6.4% or 8,500).

Additional graph New/lost jobs by industry: Feb.-Mar. 2021

Leisure and hospitality shed 61,500 jobs in March and April of last year (45% of all jobs lost). With positive growth in eight of the last 11 months, the industry has regained 39,200 of those jobs (33% of all jobs added May through March). As of March, employment stands at 112,000. The last time Austin’s leisure and hospitality industry had a similar level of employment was early 2015.

Statewide, over the last 12 months, only three industries added jobs. Transportation, warehousing, and utilities is up 7.5%. The next best performing industries, financial activities and professional and business services, are up 0.9% and 0.1% respectively. Leisure and hospitality (10.7% or 147,100 jobs), other services (9.2%), and construction and natural resources (8.4%), and are the industries with the largest rates of job loss.

Nationally, no industries added jobs over the 12 months ending in March. The largest rates of loss occurred in leisure and hospitality (14.4% or 2.3 million jobs), followed by information (7.6%), and other services (5.2%). Financial activities is the best recovered industry, with jobs only 0.6% lower than the total one year ago.

Over the last 12 months, the net loss for private service-providing industries in Austin is 14,500 jobs, or 1.8%. Employment in goods producing industries is up by 4,700 jobs or 3.5%. Statewide, private service-providing industries are down 215,200 or 2.4%, and goods producing industries are down 124,900, or 6.5%.

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 until April 28. In February, Austin had the 21st lowest rate of unemployment among the 50 largest metros. Across Texas’ major metros, seasonally adjusted March rates are below February by 0.1 to 0.2 percentage points.

In March, Austin’s not-seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate is at 5.3%, while the other major Texas metros range from 6.4% in Dallas to 8.0% in Houston. San Antonio and Fort Worth are at 6.5% and 6.8% respectively. Austin’s rate one year ago was 3.6%. The rates in the other major Texas metros are elevated from a year ago by 1.8 to 2.5 percentage points. The statewide rate is now 7.2%, up from 5.1% in March of last year. The national unemployment rate is 6.2%, up from 4.5% a year ago.

Within the Austin MSA, Williamson County has the lowest unemployment rate at 5.2% in March, while Caldwell county has the highest at 6.0%. The rate is 5.3% in Travis and Hays Counties and 5.7% in Bastrop County.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, Austin’s March unemployment rate is 5.1%, down from 5.3% in February. The statewide rate is unchanged at 6.9%, and the national rate is 6.0%, down from 6.2% in February.

In the aftermath of the dot-com bust, the highest seasonally adjusted unemployment rate reached in Austin was 6.1%. In the Great Recession, the highest rate was 7.5% and rates over 7% prevailed for 12 months.

Among Texas’ other major metros, Dallas has the next lowest seasonally adjusted unemployment rate, at 6.2%, in March, while San Antonio and Fort Worth are at 6.4% and 6.5% respectively. Houston’s rate is 8.0%. 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.)

In February 2020, before pandemic impacts, the number unemployed in Austin was 33,307. The number climbed to 138,731 in April and also exceeded 100,000 in May and June. In March, unemployed stands at 67,445, 102% above the level of 13 months ago.

The Austin metro’s civilian labor force (employed plus unemployed) fell by 99,547 persons or 7.8% in March and April of 2020, while persons employed decreased by 204,971 or 16.5%. Labor force now stands at 0.1% below what it was in February 2020 but employed is estimated at 2.9% below. Over the last month, labor force grew 0.8% and employed went up by 1.1%.

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

Texas’ employment is 674,305 or 4.9% below pre-pandemic February 2020, while labor force is lower by 166,149 or 1.2%. Thus, the number of unemployed is up by 508,156 or 101%. Nationally, March civilian labor force is down by 3.8 million or 2.3% from February 2020, while employed is below the level seen in February 2020 by 7.5 million or 4.8%, and 3.7 million more people (59%) are unemployed.

The TWC and the BLS will release April estimates on May 21.

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