Job growth & unemployment

Sign up for the Central Texas Economy Report newsletter

For opportunities with Austin employers currently hiring, see the Chamber's Austin Job Opportunities page.

Posted on 05/25/2021 by Beverly Kerr

  • Adding jobs in 11 of the last 12 months, Austin has regained 87% of last spring’s pandemic-related job losses.
  • Austin’s 1.5% deficit in jobs compared to pre-pandemic February 2020 is more moderate than the declines seen in all but one other major metro.
  • Austin’s leisure and hospitality industry added 2,400 jobs in April and has seen 66% of the 61,500 jobs lost in March and April of 2020 return.
  • Austin's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate decreased from 5.1% in March to 4.8% in April.

Nonfarm payroll jobs

Austin’s nonfarm payroll jobs total as of April is 1,125,000. 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 11 of the last 12 months has brought back 119,600, or 87%, of those jobs.

Comparing metros based on where they stand in growth over pre-pandemic February 2020, Austin’s 1.5% deficit makes it the 2nd best performing major metro. San Antonio and Dallas are also in the top 10, while Fort Worth (-3.1%) ranks 11th and Houston (-5.4%) ranks 28th. Orlando ranks 50th with April 2021 jobs 11.6% below February 2020.

Austin’s year-over-year increase of 11.9%, or 119,600 jobs, makes it the eighth best performing among the 50 largest metro areas. San Antonio, up 11.6%, ranks 11th; Dallas, up 9.6% ranks 28th; Fort Worth, up 9.4%, ranks 31st, and Houston ranks 45th with growth of 6.6%. April 2020 was the nadir of pandemic impact on jobs in nearly all major metros, except for a handful that reached their trough the following month.

For the year ending in April, private sector job growth in the Austin MSA is 14.7%, or 119,900 jobs, with gains across the 11 major private industry sectors. Austin's sizable government sector (17% of jobs) is down by 0.2% (300 jobs), thus bringing the overall year-over-year job loss rate to 11.9%.

Texas saw net private sector job growth of 10.5% with all but one private industry sector (construction and natural resources) adding jobs over the last 12 months. Total job growth was 8.8% as the government sector, which accounts for 15% of total state employment, saw only slight growth (0.7%). For the nation, private sector job growth was 13.3% for the 12 months ending in April with all private industries adding jobs. Overall job growth was lower, at 10.9%, as government sector jobs are down by 1.0%.

Jobs in April are up by 6,000 jobs or 0.5% from March in the not-seasonally-adjusted series for Austin. In the seasonally adjusted series, jobs increased by 3,600 or 0.3%. Seasonally adjusted jobs are up by 0.4% in Houston, 0.2% in San Antonio, 0.1% in Fort Worth, but down by 0.1% in Dallas. Statewide, seasonally adjusted jobs are up 13,000 or 0.1%. Nationally, seasonally adjusted jobs are up from March by 266,000 or 0.2%.

In Austin, all private industry sectors added jobs over the last 12 months, most notably leisure and hospitality (55.8% or 40,600 jobs), other services (28.9% or 9,600), and retail trade (17.6% or 16,500). The slowest growing industry, based on percent change from April 2020, is financial activities, which is up 4.2%.

Eight private industries in Austin have surpassed pre-pandemic employment and three have yet to regain March and April 2020’s losses. Leisure and hospitality shed 61,500 jobs in March and April of last year (45% of all jobs lost). With positive growth in nine of the last 12 months, the industry has regained 40,600 of those jobs (34% of all jobs added over the 12 months). As of April, employment stands at 113,400. The last time Austin’s leisure and hospitality industry had a similar level of employment was early 2015. The other two industries that have not regained February 2020’s level of employment are education and health services (-7.3%) and other services (-9.9%).

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

Statewide, over the last 12 months, all industries added jobs except construction and natural resources. That industry is down by 1.4%. As in Austin, the three industries with most significant growth are leisure and hospitality (45.7%), other services (19.3%), and retail trade (13.7%). Only three industries currently have more jobs now than they did in February 2020, notably transportation, warehousing and utilities, which is up by 5.7%. Financial activities and professional and business services have also regained last year’s losses.

Nationally, all private industries added jobs over the 12 months ending in April, led by leisure and hospitality (61.9%), other services (23.4%), and retail trade (14.7%). Relative to February 2020, only construction and natural resources has recovered pandemic-related job losses.

Over the last 12 months, the net gain for private service-providing industries in Austin is 110,600 jobs, or 16.1%. Employment in goods producing industries is up by 9,300 jobs or 7.3%. Statewide, private service-providing industries are up 999,100 or 12.9%, and goods producing industries are up 1,500 or 0.1%.

Labor force, employment & unemployment

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 will not be released until June 2. In March, Austin had the 21st lowest rate of unemployment among the 50 largest metros. Across Texas’ major metros, seasonally adjusted April rates are below March by 0.3 to 0.4 percentage points.

In April, Austin’s not-seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate is at 4.5%, while the other major Texas metros range from 5.6% in Dallas and San Antonio to 7.1% in Houston. Fort Worth is at 5.8%. Austin’s rate one year ago was 11.8%. The rates in the other major Texas metros are reduced from a year ago by 6.8 to 7.5 percentage points. The statewide rate is now 6.3%, down from 12.7% in April of last year. The national unemployment rate is 5.7%, down from 14.4% 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, Williamson County has the lowest unemployment rate at 4.4% in April, while Caldwell county has the highest at 5.3%. The rate is 4.5% in Travis and Hays Counties and 4.8% in Bastrop County.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, Austin’s April unemployment rate is 4.8%, down from 5.1% in March. The statewide rate is 6.7%, down from 6.9%, and the national rate is 6.1%, up from 6.0% in March.

Among Texas’ other major metros, Dallas has the next lowest seasonally adjusted unemployment rate, at 5.8%, in April, while San Antonio and Fort Worth are at 6.0% and 6.1% respectively. Houston’s rate is 7.6%. 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 April, unemployed stands at 57,409, 72% above the level of February 2020.

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 0.4% below what it was in February 2020 but employed is estimated at 2.3% below. Over the last month, labor force grew 0.1% and employed went up by 0.9%.

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

Texas’ labor force is 218,860 or 1.5% below pre-pandemic February 2020, while employment is lower by 598,594 or 4.2%. Thus, the number of unemployed is up by 379,734 or 76%. Nationally, April civilian labor force is down by 3.9 million or 2.3% from February 2020, while employed is below the level seen in February 2020 by 6.9 million or 4.3%, and 3.0 million more people (48%) are unemployed.

The TWC and the BLS will release May estimates on June 18.

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