Job growth & unemployment

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Posted on 06/20/2023 by Chris Ramser

  • Austin added 50,800 jobs, growth of 4.0%, in the 12 months ending in May, making it the eighth 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 (8.7%) and other services (6.0%) industries.
  • Austin's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose to 3.5% in May from 3.2% in April.

Nonfarm payroll jobs

Austin’s May nonfarm payroll jobs total is up by 50,800, or 4.0%, 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, April to May job growth was 0.3% in Austin. Growth in Texas and the U.S. was also positive, at 0.4% and 0.2%, respectively.

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.[1] 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 May 2023, 46 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 15.0%, is the best performing major metro. Dallas (11.1%), Fort Worth (8.6%), and San Antonio (8.1%) are also in the top 10. Houston (5.1%) ranks 19th. Milwaukee ranks 50th with May 2023 jobs 1.3% below February 2020.

Austin’s year-over-year increase of 4.0%, or 50,800 jobs, makes it the eighth best performing among the 50 largest metro areas. San Antonio is the fastest growing metro with 4.6% growth. Fort Worth (4.4%) ranks second and Dallas is fourth (4.2%), while Houston (3.7%) is twelfth.

For the year ending in May, private sector job growth in the Austin MSA is 4.4%, or 47,500 jobs, with gains across each of the 11 major private industry sectors. Austin's sizable government sector (15% of jobs) is up by 1,900 jobs or 1.0%, thus bringing the overall year-over-year job growth rate to 4.0%.

Texas saw net private sector job growth of 4.0% with all private industry sectors adding jobs over the last 12 months. Total job growth was 3.9% as the government sector, which accounts for 15% of total state employment, grew by a more moderate 3.2%. For the nation, private sector job growth was 2.7% for the 12 months ending in May with all private industries adding jobs. Overall job growth was slightly lower, at 2.6%, as the government sector jobs grew slightly slower at 2.5%.

Jobs in May are up by 3,400 jobs or 0.3% from April in the not-seasonally-adjusted series for Austin. In the seasonally adjusted series, jobs are also up by 0.3%. Seasonally adjusted jobs are up by 0.6% in San Antonio, 0.3% in Houston, 0.2% in Ft. Worth, and 0.1% in Dallas. Statewide, seasonally adjusted jobs are up 51,000 or 0.4%. Nationally, seasonally adjusted jobs are up from April by 339,000 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 (8.7% or 11,900 jobs), other services[2] (6.0% or 2,900 jobs), professional and business services (5.4% or 14,600 jobs), and manufacturing (4.6% or 3,200 jobs). The slowest growing industries were financial activities and transportation, warehousing and utilities, which were up 1.0% and 2.1%, respectively.

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 last month at 151,300 jobs, but is down slightly in May to 149,100. The industry’s May jobs total represents 11.3% of all jobs—slightly below its 12.0% pre-pandemic share. Other services (50,900 jobs in May) 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, 38.8%, since February 2020. The large professional and business services industry accounts for 41% of all private sector jobs added in Austin since February 2020.

Additional graphs: New/lost jobs by industry for Feb. 2020-May 2023 and Apr. 2023-May 2023 and the trend since 2000 for six large industries and six small industries.

Statewide, over the last 12 months, all private industries added jobs. The two industries with the most significant growth are other services (6.3%) and wholesale trade (5.6%). With this month’s release, Construction and natural resources has now regained all jobs lost during the pandemic and is now 3,100 jobs or 0.3% above February 2020. The best performing industry since the pandemic is transportation, warehousing and utilities, which is up by 17.4% from February 2020.

Nationally, all private industries added jobs over the 12 months ending in May, led by leisure and hospitality (5.4%) and education and health services (4.5%). Leisure and hospitality recovered the jobs lost during the pandemic last month and is now 508,000 above February 2020. Now, only one private industry, other services, has yet to recover pandemic-related job losses. It stands 14,000 jobs or 0.2% below February 2020.

Over the last 12 months, the net gain for private service-providing industries in Austin is 40,900 jobs, or 4.4%. Employment in goods-producing industries is also up 4.4%, adding 6,600 jobs. Statewide, private service-providing industries are up 392,300 or 4.1%, and goods-producing industries are up 65,500 or 4.2%.

Labor force, employment & unemployment

We also now have May 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 June 28. In April, Austin had the 33rd lowest rate of unemployment among the 50 largest metros. Unemployment numbers for May show Austin’s performance relative to the state and other major Texas metros being sustained.

In May, Austin’s not-seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate is 3.5%, which is an increase of 0.8 percentage points above where it was one year ago at 2.7%. The other major Texas metros range from 3.8% 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 0.4 to 0.5 percentage points. The statewide rate is now 4.1%, up from 3.6% in May of last year. The national unemployment rate is 3.4%, unchanged from a year ago.

Before the pandemic in 2019, the unemployment rate averaged 2.7% in Austin, 3.5% in Texas, and 3.7% nationally.

May unemployment rates are 3.4% in Hays and Travis Counties, 3.5% in Bastrop and Williamson Counties, and 3.7% in Caldwell County.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, Austin’s May unemployment rate is 3.5%, down from 3.2% in April. The statewide rate is 4.1%, up by 0.1 from April. The national rate is 3.7%, up from 3.4% in April.

Among Texas’ other major metros, Dallas, Fort Worth, and San Antonio are each at 4.0%, while Houston is at 4.7%. 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 May 2023, unemployed stands at 49,407. That is 50.3% above the level of February 2020 and 33.5% 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 13.1% above what it was in February 2020 and employed is estimated at 12.1% above.

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

Texas’ labor force is 5.7% above pre-pandemic February 2020, while employment is 5.0% above. Nationally, civilian labor force and employment surpassed February 2020 for the first time in March 2022. In May 2023, the national labor force is 1.5% above February 2020, while employment is up by 1.9%.

Over the last 12 months, Austin’s labor force increased 3.1% and employed by 2.3%. Texas increased labor force by 2.4% and employed by 1.9%. Nationally, the labor force growth was 1.6% and employment increased by 1.5%.

The Texas Workforce Commission and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics will release June estimates on July 21.

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.


  1. Fort Worth and Nashville also made up pandemic-related job losses by April 2021.
  2. Other services is largely comprised of repair and maintenance; personal and laundry services; and religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations.

Related Categories: Central Texas Economy in Perspective