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June 21, 2016 - Job Growth & Unemployment

Posted By Beverly Kerr | Jun 21, 2016
Central Texas Economy in Perspective Print Article 360 Bridge with cars traveling.
  • Austin added 37,300 net new jobs, growth of 3.9%, in the 12 months ending in May, making Austin the third fastest growing major metro.
  • Professional and business services added the most jobs (7,000 or 4.4%) in the past year, however, the fastest growing industries are construction and natural resources (10.5%) and wholesale trade (10.1%).
  • Austin's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 3.0%, unchanged from April.

The Austin metropolitan area added 37,300 net new jobs, or 3.9%, in the 12 months ending in May, according to Friday's release of preliminary payroll jobs numbers by theTexas Workforce Commission (TWC) and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Austin’s 3.9% growth makes it the third best performing among the 50 largest metro areas. Dallas, at 4.6%, was the fastest growing job market. The other three major Texas metros missed the top 10. San Antonio grew by 2.9% (17th), Fort Worth grew by 1.4% (39th), and Houston grew by 0.2% (49th) between May 2015 and May 2016.

For the year ending in May, private sector job growth in the Austin MSA is 4.4%, or 34,700 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 2,600 jobs or 1.5%, thus bringing the overall job growth rate to 3.9%.

Texas saw weaker net private sector job growth of 1.3% 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, 1.9%. Overall job growth was 1.4%. For the nation, private sector growth is 1.9% for the 12 months ending in May, with all private industries, but manufacturing, adding jobs. Overall job growth is a more modest 1.7% because the government sector gained only 0.5%.

Jobs in May are up from April by 5,300 jobs or 0.5% in the not-seasonally-adjusted series for Austin, but on a seasonally adjusted basis, jobs are up by 3,300 or 0.3%. Seasonally adjusted jobs are up by 0.4% in San Antonio, 0.2% in Dallas, and 0.1% in Fort Worth, and down by 0.2% in Houston. Statewide, seasonally adjusted jobs are virtually unchanged (up 200 jobs) in May. Nationally, seasonally adjusted are also virtually unchanged (up 0.03%).

In Austin, the industry adding the most jobs over the last 12 months is professional and business services which grew by 7,000 jobs, or 4.4%. Construction and natural resources grew fastest at 10.5% (5,700 jobs), followed by wholesale trade at 10.1% (4,800). Also growing at faster-than-average rates are retail trade (4.8% or 4,700 jobs) and other services (4.7% or 1,900 jobs). Manufacturing lost 2.1% or 1,200 jobs.

Statewide, leisure and hospitality grew fastest (4.4% or 55,200 jobs) while education and health services added the most jobs (59,100 or 3.7%). The other relatively fast growing private industries include retail trade (2.7%), financial activities (2.6%), and other services (2.3%). Jobs in construction and natural resources lost 39,100 jobs (4.1%) and manufacturing declined by 38,500 (4.4%) over the last 12 months. The contraction of the construction and natural resources sector was driven by natural resources industries (down 46,400 jobs or 17.0%), while the construction industry added jobs (7,300 or 1.1%). Texas’ manufacturing losses were concentrated in two durable goods industries—machinery and fabricated metal products manufacturing. The third industry with negative job growth was transportation, warehousing and utilities (600 jobs or 0.1%).

Nationally, education and health services grew fastest, adding 3.1% over the 12 months ending in May. The other industries growing at faster than average rates were professional and business services (2.7%), leisure and hospitality (2.5%), retail trade (2.1%), and financial activities (2.0%). Manufacturing jobs declined by 0.4%.

The net gain for private service-providing industries in Austin is 30,200 jobs, or 4.5%, over the last 12 months. Employment in goods producing industries is up by 4,500 jobs or 4.0%. Statewide, private service-providing industries are up 211,600 or 2.6%, but goods producing industries are down 77,600 jobs or 4.2%. (Click here for a graph comparable to the one above showing data for Texas.)

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 that we often do a ranking of will not be released until June 29. In April, Austin had the 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 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 3.3%. The rates in Dallas, Fort Worth and San Antonio are also improved from the rates seen a year ago. Houston has seen its unemployment rate increase (from 4.4%). The statewide not-seasonally-adjusted rate is now 4.2%, down from 4.3% in May of last year. The U.S. unemployment rate is 4.5%, improved from 5.3% 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 (4.3%) is the same as it averaged in 2007. The nation, with unemployment averaging 5.0% in 2016, has yet to regain its pre-recession level of unemployment.

Within the Austin MSA, Travis County has the lowest unemployment rate in May, at 2.8%, while Caldwell County has the highest at 3.9%. The rate is 3.0% in Hays and Williamson Counties and 3.3% in Bastrop County.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, Austin’s May unemployment rate is 3.0%, unchanged from April. Unemployment has been 3.0% three of the last four months. The last time Austin saw 3.0% or lower seasonally adjusted unemployment was January 2001, before the impact of the “dot-com” recession. The statewide rate is 4.4%, unchanged from April. Nationally, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 4.7%, improved from 5.0% in April.

Among Texas major metros, Dallas and San Antonio have the next lowest seasonally adjusted rate at 3.5%, while Fort Worth and Houston are at 3.8% and 5.0% respectively. May rates are unchanged from April in Austin and Fort Worth, while they are improved by 1 to 4 percentage points in the other major metros. 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 May 2015, Austin’s number of unemployed was 35,011. Over the last 12 months, the unemployed have decreased by 3,296 or 9.4%, to 31,715. 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 2.8% or 30,159 persons from one year ago, while persons employed increased by 3.2% or 33,455. Texas saw 1.3% growth in labor force and 1.5% in employed, while the number unemployed decreased by 1.2% or 6,556. Nationally, May civilian labor force is up by 0.7%, while employed is above the level of a year ago by 1.5%, and 1,163,000 fewer people (13.9%) are unemployed.

Texas Workforce Commission will release June estimates on July 22.

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.