- Austin added 64,300 jobs, growth of 5.2%, in the 12 months ending in March, making it the second best performing among the top 50 metros.
- Austin made up all of 2020’s pandemic-related job losses by April 2021 and the metro ranks first for job growth since February 2020.
- The fastest job growth over the last 12 months occurred in Austin’s leisure and hospitality (14.6%) and wholesale trade (8.5%) industries.
- Austin's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 3.0% in March, unchanged from February.
Nonfarm payroll jobs
Austin’s March nonfarm payroll jobs total is up by 64,300, or 5.2%, over the last 12 months according to Friday's releases of monthly labor market data by the Texas Workforce Commission and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On a seasonally adjusted basis, February to March job growth was 0.5% in Austin, while both Texas and U.S. saw positive growth of 0.2%.
Combining job losses for March and April 2020, Austin lost 137,200 jobs, or 12.0%, due to the impact of COVID-19. By April 2021, Austin surpassed the jobs total it had in the last pre-pandemic month. Since March 2022, Austin appears to be at or above the level of employment that might have been projected had there been no pandemic. In 2018 and 2019, the average monthly percent change in nonfarm payroll jobs was 0.33%. The graph below illustrates what Austin’s job trend might have looked like if the pandemic hadn’t happened and Austin sustained that average pre-pandemic growth rate.
As of March 2023, 38 of the top 50 metropolitan areas have regained their pre-pandemic level of jobs. Comparing metros based on where they stand relative to pre-pandemic February 2020, Austin, up 14.3%, is the best performing major metro. Dallas (10.4%), Fort Worth (7.5%), and San Antonio (6.4%) are also in the top 10. Houston (4.4%) ranks 18th. Milwaukee ranks 50th with March 2023 jobs 2.8% below February 2020.
Austin’s year-over-year increase of 5.2%, or 64,300 jobs, makes it the second best performing among the 50 largest metro areas. Las Vegas is the fastest growing metro with 5.3% growth. Dallas (5.1%) ranks third and Fort Worth (4.9%) and Houston (4.5%) and are also in the top 10. San Antonio (4.1%) ranks 11th.
For the year ending in March, private sector job growth in the Austin MSA is 5.9%, or 62,600 jobs, with gains across each of the 11 major private industry sectors. Austin's sizable government sector (15% of jobs) is only up by 1,700 jobs or 0.9%, thus bringing the overall year-over-year job growth rate down to 5.2%.
Texas saw net private sector job growth of 4.6% with all private industry sectors adding jobs over the last 12 months. Total job growth was 4.3% as the government sector, which accounts for 15% of total state employment, grew by a more moderate 2.9%. For the nation, private sector job growth was 2.8% for the 12 months ending in March with all private industries adding jobs. Overall job growth was lower, at 2.7%, as the government sector jobs grew by a moderate 2.3%.
Jobs in March are up by 10,800 jobs or 0.8% from February in the not-seasonally-adjusted series for Austin. However, in the seasonally adjusted series, jobs are up by a more moderate 6,300 or 0.5%. Seasonally adjusted jobs are up by 0.4% in Houston, 0.2% in Dallas and San Antonio, and 0.1% in Fort Worth. Statewide, seasonally adjusted jobs are up 28,600 or 0.2%. Nationally, seasonally adjusted jobs are up from February by 236,000 or 0.2%.
In Austin, each of the 11 major private industry sectors added jobs over the last 12 months, most notably leisure and hospitality (14.6% or 19,300 jobs), wholesale trade (8.5% or 4,500 jobs), professional and business services (6.8% or 17,900 jobs), and manufacturing (6.4% or 4,400 jobs). The slowest growing industries were financial activities and transportation, warehousing and utilities, which were both up only 0.3%.
Each of the 11 private industry sectors in Austin have now surpassed pre-pandemic employment levels. Leisure and hospitality shed 62,100 jobs in March and April of 2020 (45% of all jobs lost). The industry finally regained those lost jobs in April 2022. Employment attained a new peak of 151,400 in March. The industry’s March jobs total represents 11.6% of all jobs—slightly below its 12.0% pre-pandemic share. Other services (49,700 jobs in March) finally regained its pre-pandemic level of employment in May 2022, one month after leisure and hospitality. Transportation, warehousing and utilities is the lone industry in Austin that did not lose jobs with the onset of the pandemic and it has seen the fastest growth, 40.4%, since February 2020. The large professional and business services industry accounts for 41% of all private sector jobs added in Austin since February 2020.
Statewide, over the last 12 months, all private industries added jobs. The two industries with the most significant growth are other services (7.6%) and wholesale trade (6.5%). All private industries currently have more jobs now than they did in February 2020, most notably transportation, warehousing and utilities, which is up by 18.6%. Construction and natural resources jobs exceed February 2020 by only 0.2%.
Nationally, all private industries added jobs over the 12 months ending in March, led by leisure and hospitality (6.5%) and education and health services (4.3%). Relative to February 2020, nine private industries have recovered pandemic-related job losses, but two, leisure and hospitality and other services, have not.
Over the last 12 months, the net gain for private service-providing industries in Austin is 56,700 jobs, or 6.2%. Employment in goods-producing industries is up by 5,900 jobs or 4.0%. Statewide, private service-providing industries are up 420,500 or 4.5%, and goods-producing industries are up 90,700 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 May 3. In February, Austin had the 32nd 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 3.5%, which is an increase of 0.7 percentage points above where it was one year ago at 2.8%. The other major Texas metros range from 3.9% in Dallas, Fort Worth, and San Antonio to 4.4% in Houston. The rates in the other major Texas metros are also higher from a year ago by 0.3 to 0.5 percentage points. The statewide rate is now 4.2%, up from 3.8% in March of last year. The national unemployment rate is 3.6%, down from 3.8% a year ago.
Before the pandemic in 2019, the unemployment rate averaged 2.7% in Austin, 3.5% in Texas, and 3.7% nationally.
March unemployment rates are 3.4% in Hays and Travis Counties, 3.6% in Williamson County, and 3.9% in Bastrop and Caldwell Counties.
On a seasonally adjusted basis, Austin’s March unemployment rate is 3.0%, unchanged from February. The statewide rate is 4.0%, unchanged from February. The national rate is 3.5%, improved from 3.6% in February.
Among Texas’ other major metros, Dallas, Fort Worth, and San Antonio are each at 3.5%, while Houston is at 4.2%. 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 estimates.)
In February 2020, before pandemic impacts, the number unemployed in Austin was 32,881. The number climbed to 133,963 in April and also exceeded 100,000 in May and June. In March 2023, unemployed stands at 50,219. That is 52.7% above the level of February 2020 and 30.0% higher than it was one year ago.
The Austin metro’s civilian labor force (employed plus unemployed) fell by 91,603 persons or 7.2% in March and April of 2020, while persons employed decreased by 192,685 or 15.6%. Labor force now stands at 14.1% above what it was in February 2020 and employed is estimated at 13.0% above.
Texas’ labor force is 6.8% above pre-pandemic February 2020, while employment is 6.0% above. Nationally, civilian labor force and employment surpassed February 2020 for the first time in March 2022. In March, the national labor force is 1.6% above February 2020, while employment is up by 1.7%.
Over the last 12 months, Austin’s labor force increased 4.5% and employed by 3.7%. Texas increased labor force by 3.3% and employed by 2.9%. Nationally, the labor force growth was 1.5% and employment increased by 1.7%.
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