Job growth & unemployment

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Posted on 04/21/2020 by Beverly Kerr

  • Austin added 27,200 net new jobs, growth of 2.5%, in the 12 months ending in March, making Austin the 6th fastest growing major metro.
  • From February to March, job growth was negative for 40 of the top 50 metros, including Austin, which lost 6,900 or 0.6% (or 8,400 or 0.7% on a seasonally adjusted basis).
  • Austin's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 3.4% in March, up from 2.5% from February.
  • Texas’ seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased from 3.5% in February to 4.7% in March and is forecast to be near 12.4% in April.

Friday's release of new labor market data by federal and state workforce agencies represents estimates through March. 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. As such, only limited coronavirus pandemic impacts are reflected in this data. April data will be the first to correspond with widespread shutdowns and will arrive on May 22.

On April 16, IHS Markit presented its quarterly economic forecast to Texas government agencies. This forecast included estimates of year-over-year employment growth for 2020 Q4. U.S. jobs are projected to fall by 8.7% in 2020. All states will lose jobs, but Texas is among the harder hit, losing 9.4%, because of conditions in oil and gas, as well as the importance of exports in the state’s economy. Among the state’s major metros, losses are estimated at 5.1% in Austin, 5.2% in San Antonio, 5.5% in Dallas-Fort Worth, and 6.9% in Houston. The technology and government sectors were cited as softening the blow for the Austin area. A 5.1% rate of job loss for Austin would represent about 57,900 jobs. Nationally, it is projected that it will take 11 quarters to return to the pre-recession level of employment.

U.S. Q4 unemployment is forecast to be 10.3% in 2020, 6.0% in 2021, and 3.7% in 2022 and 2023.

An alternative outlook for Texas employment comes from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. The Dallas Fed refreshes it’s 2020 Texas employment forecast on a monthly basis here. Friday’s article stated that indications are that the state’s April unemployment rate may be near 12.4%.

Nonfarm payroll jobs

Falling back from the 3.5% year-over-year rate of February, The Austin metropolitan area added 27,200 net new jobs, or 2.5%, in the 12 months ending 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). This substantial drop off from the 4.0% rate of year-over-year growth that the metro has averaged since 2011 is but one of several indications of the beginnings of COVID-19 impact to the labor market.

Austin’s 2.5% growth makes it the sixth best performing among the 50 largest metro areas. Dallas and Houston, gaining 2.9% and 1.9% respectively, also made the top ten. San Antonio (1.7%) and Fort Worth (0.8%) ranked 11th and 26th respectively.

For the year ending in March, private sector growth in the Austin MSA is 2.9%, or 27,000 jobs, with all private industry divisions except leisure and hospitality 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 2.5%.

Texas saw net private sector job growth of 1.9% with all private industries, but two, adding jobs over the last 12 months. Total job growth was also 1.9% as the government sector, which accounts for 15% of total state employment, grew at a similar rate (1.8%). For the nation, private sector growth is 1.0% for the 12 months ending in March with all private industries, but two, adding jobs. Overall job growth was also 1.0% as government sector growth was similar (0.9%).

Jobs in March are down by 6,900 jobs or 0.6% from February in the not-seasonally-adjusted series for Austin. In the seasonally adjusted series, job losses are greater, down by 8,400 jobs or 0.7%. Seasonally adjusted jobs are down by 0.4% in Dallas, 0.5% in San Antonio, 0.6% in Houston, and 1.8% in Fort Worth. Statewide, seasonally adjusted jobs are down 50,900 or 0.4%. Nationally, seasonally adjusted jobs are down from February by 0.5%. Across the top 50 metros, 40 experienced negative job growth in March. In March of last year, monthly growth was positive for 49 of the 50 metros.

In Austin over the last 12 months, construction and natural resources was the fastest growing at 7.9% and added the most jobs, 5,300. Also growing at faster-than-average rates are transportation, warehousing and utilities (7.4% or 1,700); financial activities (6.7% or 4,300); other services (6.5% or 3,000); information (3.2% or 1,200); and manufacturing (3.1% or 1,900).

Between February and March, five of the 11 major private industry divisions saw job losses in Austin: leisure and hospitality (4.1% or 5,600), education and health services (1.7% or 2,300), retail trade (1.0% or 1,100 jobs), professional and business services (0.6% or 1,200), and information (0.3% or 100). Financial activities had the most notable positive growth—1,100 jobs or 1.6%.

Statewide, over the last 12 months, professional and business services added the most jobs, 62,500 (3.5%). The fastest growing industry was transportation, warehousing and utilities (up 5.1%). Other services (5.6%), financial activities (2.7%), and education and health services (2.3%) were also relatively fast growing. The two goods producing industries, manufacturing and construction and natural resources, both declined by 0.1%.

Nationally, education and health services grew fastest, adding 2.2% over the 12 months ending in March. Financial activities (1.7%), information (1.7%), construction and natural resources (1.6%), and professional and business services (1.5%) were also relatively fast growing. Leisure and hospitality and retail trade jobs fell by 0.6% and 0.1% respectively.

Over the last 12 months, the net gain for private service-providing industries in Austin is 19,800 jobs, or 2.5%. Employment in goods producing industries is up by 7,200 jobs or 5.6%. Statewide, private service-providing industries are up 207,400, or 2.4%, and goods producing industries are down 1,800 jobs, or 0.1%.

Between February and March, Austin’s goods producing industries gained 700 jobs or 0.5%, while private service providing industries lost 8,300 jobs or 1.0%. Statewide, jobs fell by 22,000 or 1.1% in goods producing industries and by 30,800 or 0.3% in private service providing industries.

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 29. In February, Austin had the fifth lowest rate of unemployment among the 50 largest metros. New unemployment numbers show Austin’s performance relative to the state and other major Texas metros being sustained, however each saw a notable increase in March.

In March, Austin is at 3.5%, while the other major metros range from 4.2% in Dallas and San Antonio to 5.1% in Houston. Fort Worth is at 4.4%. Austin’s rate one year ago was 2.7%. The rates in the other major Texas metros are also elevated from a year ago (differences ranging from 0.9 to 1.4 percentage points). The statewide not-seasonally-adjusted rate is now 4.7%, up from 3.5% in March of last year. The national unemployment rate is 4.5%, up from 3.9% a year ago.

Within the Austin MSA, Travis County has the lowest unemployment rate in March, at 3.4%, while Caldwell County has the highest at 4.3%. The rate is 3.6% in Hays County, 3.7% in Williamson County, and 3.9% in Bastrop County.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, Austin’s March unemployment rate is 3.4%, up from 2.5% in February; the statewide rate is 4.7%, up from 3.5% in February; and the national rate is 4.4%, up from 3.5%.

Among Texas’ other major metros, Dallas and San Antonio have the next lowest seasonally adjusted unemployment rates, both at 4.0%, in March, while Fort Worth is at 4.2%, and Houston’s rate is 5.0%. 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.)

With Austin’s unemployment rate up from one year ago, the number unemployed has also risen. In March 2019, Austin’s number of unemployed was 33,047. While February’s number was quite close to that, March has seen unemployed reach 43,971, a 33% increase over a year ago. This is due to a much smaller increase in the number employed, compared to labor force. The Austin metro’s civilian labor force (employed plus unemployed) increased by 11,634 persons or 0.9% from one year ago, while persons employed increased by 710 or 0.1%.

Texas’ employment growth is negative (by 77,054 or 0.6%) while labor force growth is positive (99,364 or 0.7%). Thus, the number of unemployed increased by 176,418 or 36%. Nationally, March civilian labor force is down by 286,000 or 0.2%, while employed is below the level of a year ago by 1,274,000 or 0.8%, and 988,000 more people (15.5%) are unemployed.

The TWC and the BLS will release April estimates on May 22.

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