Austin Chamber

June 2, 2015 – Job Growth & Unemployment

Posted By Beverly Kerr | Jun 02, 2015
Central Texas Economy in Perspective Print Article Austin Chamber
  • Austin added 29,500 net new jobs, or 3.2%, in the 12 months ending in April.
  • Job growth is improved over the rates seen in February and March.
  • Seasonally adjusted job growth from March to April was a robust 0.5%.
  • Since last April, Austin’s number of unemployed has declined by 8,469 or 21.1%.
  • Unemployment fell to 3.0%, a rate not seen in Austin since before the early 2000s "dot-com" recession.

The Austin metropolitan area added 29,500 jobs, or 3.2%, in the 12 months ending in April, according to the latest release of payroll jobs numbers by the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) and the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS). Last week’s BLS release of this data for all U.S. metros shows that Austin’s 3.2% growth makes it the 13th best performing among the 50 largest metro areas. Dallas grew by 4.1%, ranking 4th. The other major Texas metros missed the top 10.  Fort Worth grew by 3.3% (12th), San Antonio grew by 3.2% (15th), and Houston grew by 2.4% (29th) between April 2014 and April 2015. [NOTE]

For the year ending in April, private sector job growth in the Austin MSA was 3.8%, or 27,800 jobs, and with all private industry divisions contributing to the growth. Austin's sizable government sector (nearly 19% of jobs) saw modest growth over the last 12 months, gaining only 1,700 jobs or 1.0%, thus bringing the overall job growth rate to 3.2%.

Texas saw weaker net private sector job growth of 2.9% with all private industry divisions, except manufacturing, adding jobs over the last 12 months. As with Austin, total job growth statewide was lower, 2.6%, due to the only moderate growth (1.2%) in the government sector, which accounts for over 16% of total state employment. For the nation, private sector growth was 2.6% for the 12 months ending in April, with all private industries adding jobs. Overall job growth was a more modest 2.2% because the government sector gained only 0.3%.

Jobs in April are up from the preceding month by 3,000 jobs or 1.0% in the not-seasonally-adjusted series for Austin, however, March-to-April change on a seasonally adjusted basis is up 5,000 jobs or 0.5%. Statewide, seasonally adjusted jobs are virtually unchanged (up 1,200 or 0.0%). On a seasonally adjusted basis, jobs were also up in Dallas (0.3%) and Fort Worth (0.6%), but were unchanged in San Antonio and down in Houston (-0.2%). Nationally, seasonally adjusted jobs rose 0.2% in April.

In Austin, the fastest growing industries were leisure and hospitality and wholesale trade, which each grew by 5.2%, adding 5,500 and 2,300 jobs respectively over the last 12 months. The industry adding the most jobs was professional and business services which added 5,800 jobs, a 3.9% gain. Also growing at faster-than-average rates were construction, natural resources and mining (4.9% or 2,400 jobs); information (4.8% or 2,300 jobs); education and health services (4.4% or 4,700 jobs); and other services (4.4% or 1,700 jobs). The smallest private sector growth was seen in manufacturing which gained 1.0% or 600 jobs.

Statewide, leisure and hospitality grew fasted and added the most jobs, 5.0% or 59,000 jobs. Wholesale trade and transportation, warehousing and utilities each grew by 3.8%, adding 21,400 and 17,700 jobs respectively. Two other industries were also relatively fast growing: education and health services (up 3.7%) and retail trade (3.0%). Manufacturing declined by 7,000 jobs (0.8%).

Nationally, professional and business services added the most jobs (687,000) and gained 3.6% over the 12 months ending in April. Construction and natural resources saw the largest percent change (4.0%). Transportation, warehousing and utilities; leisure and hospitality; and education and health services also grew at faster-than-average rates (3.2%, 3.1% and 2.7% respectively). No industry lost jobs.

The net gain for private service-providing industries in Austin is 24,800 jobs, or 3.9%, over the last 12 months and the net gain for goods producing industries is 3,000, or 2.8%. Statewide, private service-providing industries are up 261,100 or 3.3% and goods producing industries are up 21,100 or 1.2%.

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 tomorrow, June 3. 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 3.0%, while the other major metros range from 3.4% in San Antonio to 4.0% in Houston. Dallas and Fort Worth are at 3.6% and 3.8% respectively. Austin’s rate one year ago was 3.8%. The rates in Texas’ other major metros are 0.6 to 1.2 percentage points improved on the rates seen a year ago. The statewide not-seasonally-adjusted rate is now 4.0%, compared to 4.8% in April of last year. The April national rate is 5.1% compared to 5.9% in April of last year.

Within the Austin MSA, Travis County has the lowest unemployment rate in April, at 2.9%, while Caldwell County has the highest at 3.7%. The rate is 3.0% in Hays County, 3.1% in Williamson County, and 3.4% in Bastrop County.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, Austin’s April unemployment rate is 3.3%, improved from 3.4% in March. Austin has not seen unemployment this low since 2001.

San Antonio has the next lowest seasonally adjusted rate at 3.7%, while Dallas, Fort Worth, and Houston are at 3.9%, 4.0% and 4.2% respectively. April rates are improved from March in each metro except San Antonio which is unchanged. The statewide rate is 4.2%, unchanged from March. Nationally, the seasonally adjusted unemployment was 5.4% in April, improved from 5.5% in March. 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 2014, Austin’s number of unemployed was 40,055, and has decreased by 8,469 or 21.1%, to 31,586.

The Austin metro’s civilian labor force (employed plus unemployed) increased by 9,056 or 0.9% in the last 12 months, while persons employed increased by 17,525 or 1.7%. Texas also saw larger growth in employed (1.2%) than in labor force (0.4%), and 100,645 fewer people (16.2%) are unemployed. Nationally, April civilian labor force is up by 1.1%, while employed is above the level of a year ago by 1.9%, and 1.1 million fewer people (12.3%) are unemployed.

Texas Workforce Commission will release May estimates on June 19.

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[NOTE]

This month’s year-over-year percent change of 3.2% in the number of jobs comports with what would more or less be the longer range average annual growth for Austin, although it is still not quite high enough to return Austin to the top 10 given the growth rates presently prevailing elsewhere in the nation. Only three of the last six months have shown an annual percent change over 3.0%, which is unusual for Austin in non-recessionary period.

Year-over-year growth averaged 4.4% over the first three quarters of 2014 and then slowed in the fourth quarter in Austin. Consequently, Austin sank uncommonly far down the large metros job growth ranking—last month, Austin was 29th.

The monthly Current Employment Statistics (CES) data is produced by a samplesurvey which is annually benchmarked against an alternative data set called theQuarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW). Rather than a sample of payrolls, QCEW statistics represent the universe of payrolls covered by the unemployment insurance program. As such, it is not published in as timely a fashion as the monthly CES survey—it lags about six months.

The final quarter of 2014’s QCEW data arrived in May, offering an opportunity to consider whether or not it supported the slowing of job growth seen in the CES estimates.  Where the CES series shows Austin’s average annual percent change as 3.2% in the fourth quarter, QCEW shows growth at 4.1%. While the CES series has the year-over-year percent change averaging 4.4% in the first three quarters and falling to 3.2% in the fourth, the QCEW series has the rate only falling from 4.3% to 4.1%. 

QCEW and CES are not strictly equivalent, but QCEW is the primary source of information determining the revisions to CES employment that are made in March of each year by the BLS. The Dallas Fed produces its own seasonally adjusted CES employment estimates for Texas’ major metros which it benchmarks against QCEW each quarter, instead of only annually.

We don’t typically address the Dallas Fed’s series in this article due to comparability with the data for other U.S. metros. However, given the disparity between CES and QCEW through the last reported quarter, it is worth noting that the Dallas Fed series shows 3.7% job growth in Austin over the 12 months ending in April. That rate would be high enough to put Austin among the top 10 fastest growing large metros this month, everything else held constant.

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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.

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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.