Austin downtown skyline over Town Lake

May 24, 2016 – Job Growth & Unemployment

Posted By Beverly Kerr | May 24, 2016
Central Texas Economy in Perspective Print Article Austin downtown skyline over Town Lake
  • Austin added 38,300 net new jobs, growth of 4.0%, in the 12 months ending in April, making Austin the sixth fastest growing major metro.

  • Professional and business services added the most jobs (7,300 or 4.6%) in the past year, however, the fastest growing industries are construction and natural resources (11.1%) and wholesale trade (10.0%).

  • The Austin metro’s civilian labor force has increased by 3.0% from one year ago, while persons employed increased by 3.2%.

  • Austin's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 3.2%, unchanged from March.

The Austin metropolitan area added 38,300 net new jobs, or 4.0%, in the 12 months ending in April, according to Friday's release of preliminary payroll jobs numbers by the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics(BLS). Austin’s 4.0% growth makes it the sixth best performing among the 50 largest metro areas. Dallas, at 4.7%, was the fastest growing job market. The other three major Texas metros missed the top 10. San Antonio grew by 2.6% (22nd), Fort Worth grew by 1.9% (34th), and Houston grew by 0.3% (49th) between April 2015 and April 2016.

For the year ending in April, private sector job growth in the Austin MSA is 4.7%, or 36,200 jobs, and with all private industry divisions, but manufacturing, contributing to the growth. Austin's sizable government sector (nearly 18% of jobs) saw modest growth over the last 12 months, gaining 2,100 jobs or 1.2%, thus bringing the overall job growth rate to 4.0%.

Texas saw weaker net private sector job growth of 1.6% with eight of eleven private industry divisions adding jobs over the last 12 months. The government sector, which accounts for over 16% of total state employment, grew faster, 1.8%. Overall job growth was 1.6%. For the nation, private sector growth is 2.2% for the 12 months ending in April, with all private industries, but manufacturing, adding jobs. Overall job growth is a more modest 1.9% because the government sector gained only 0.4%.

Jobs in April are down from March by 4,800 jobs or 0.5% in the not-seasonally-adjusted series for Austin, but on a seasonally adjusted basis, jobs are down by 500 or 0.1%. Seasonally adjusted jobs are up in by 0.5% in Dallas, 0.3% in Fort Worth, and by 0.1% in Houston and San Antonio. Statewide, seasonally adjusted jobs are up 0.1% (8,300 jobs) in April. Nationally, seasonally adjusted jobs rose 0.1% in April.

In Austin, the industry adding the most jobs over the last 12 months is professional and business services which grew by 7,300 jobs, or 4.6%. Construction and natural resources grew fastest at 11.1% (6,000 jobs), followed by wholesale trade at 10.0% (4,700). Also growing at faster-than-average rates are leisure and hospitality (6.0% or 6,900 jobs) and other services (4.8% or 1,900 jobs). Manufacturing lost 1.2% or 700 jobs.

Statewide, leisure and hospitality grew fastest (5.1%) and added the most jobs (62,700). The other relatively fast growing private industries were education and health services (4.0%), retail trade (3.1%), wholesale trade (2.5%), other services (2.3%), and financial activities (2.1%). Jobs in manufacturing declined by 39,500 (4.5%) and construction and natural resources lost 35,500 jobs (3.7%) over the last 12 months. The contraction of the construction and natural resources sector was driven by natural resources industries (down 50,500 jobs or 18.1%), while the construction industry added jobs (15,000 or 2.2%). Texas’ manufacturing losses were concentrated in two durable goods industries—machinery and fabricated metal products manufacturing. The third industry with negative job growth was information (1,100 jobs or 0.5%).

Nationally, professional and business services and education and health services grew fastest, both adding 3.1% over the 12 months ending in April. Leisure and hospitality, retail trade, and financial activities also grew at faster-than-average rates, 2.9%, 2.2%, and 2.0% respectively. Manufacturing jobs declined by 0.2%.

The net gain for private service-providing industries in Austin is 30,900 jobs, or 4.6%, over the last 12 months. Employment in goods producing industries is up by 5,300 jobs or 4.8%. Statewide, private service-providing industries are up 229,000 or 2.8%, but goods producing industries are down 75,000 jobs or 4.1%.

We also now have April 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 June 1. In March, Austin had the lowest rate of unemployment among the 50 largest metros.

Unemployment numbers for April show Austin’s performance relative to the state and other major Texas metros being sustained. In April, Austin is at 2.9%, while the other major metros range from 3.4% in Dallas and San Antonio to 4.8% in Houston. Fort Worth is at 3.7%. Austin’s rate one year ago was 3.0%. The rates in Dallas and Fort Worth are also improved from the rates seen a year ago. San Antonio is unchanged and Houston has seen its unemployment rate increase (from 4.1%). The statewide not-seasonally-adjusted rate is now 4.2%, up from 4.1% in April of last year. The U.S. unemployment rate is 4.7%, improved from 5.1% a year ago.

In 2007, before the impact of the Great Recession, unemployment averaged 3.6% in Austin, 4.3% in Texas, and 4.6% nationally. Unemployment has been below pre-recession levels for over a year in Austin. Texas’ year-to-date average (4.4%) is slightly above the rate averaged in 2007. The nation, with unemployment averaging 5.1% in 2016, has a larger gap to bridge in regaining its pre-recession level of unemployment.

Within the Austin MSA, Travis County has the lowest unemployment rate in April, at 2.8%, while Caldwell County has the highest at 3.9%. The rate is 2.9% in Hays and Williamson Counties and 3.3% in Bastrop County.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, Austin’s April unemployment rate is 3.2%, unchanged from March. Rates have been 3.3% or lower since June. Austin has not seen unemployment this low since early 2001, before the impact of the “dot-com” recession. The statewide rate is 4.4%, up from 4.3% in March. Nationally, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 5.0%, unchanged from March.

Among Texas major metros, Dallas and San Antonio has the next lowest seasonally adjusted rate at 3.7%, while Fort Worth and Houston are at 4.0% and 5.2% respectively. April rates are unchanged from March in each metro, except Houston which has increased (from 5.1%). 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 April 2015, Austin’s number of unemployed was 32,364. Over the last 12 months, the unemployed have decreased by 941 or 2.9%, to 31,423. The number of unemployed in Austin averaged more than 60,000 for three years running during the Great Recession.

The Austin metro’s civilian labor force (employed plus unemployed) has increased by 3.0% or 31,802 persons from one year ago, while persons employed increased by 3.2% or 32,743. Texas saw 1.6% growth in labor force and 1.4% in employed, while the number unemployed increased by 5.9% or 31,361. Nationally, April civilian labor force is up by 1.2%, while employed is above the level of a year ago by 1.7%, and 553,000 fewer people (6.9%) are unemployed.

Texas Workforce Commission will release May estimates on June 22.

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Beverly Kerr

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.