Job growth & unemployment

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Posted on 06/21/2022 by Beverly Kerr

  • Austin made up all of 2020’s pandemic-related job losses a year ago and the metro currently has 87,900 more jobs than it had in February 2020.
  • Austin ranks as the second best performing major job market since the beginning of the pandemic and the sixth best over the last 12 months.
  • Austin’s leisure and hospitality industry added 1,600 jobs in May, surpassing pre-pandemic February 2020 by 2,100 jobs or 1.6%.
  • Austin's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 3.1% in May, up from 3.0% in April.

Nonfarm payroll jobs

Austin’s nonfarm payroll jobs total as of May is 1,230,400 according to Friday's releases of monthly labor market data by the Texas Workforce Commission and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In February 2020, before the impacts from COVID-19, Austin had an estimated 1,142,500 jobs. Combining job losses for March and April 2020, Austin lost 137,100 jobs, or 12.0%. By May 2021, Austin surpassed the jobs total it had in the last pre-pandemic month.

As of May 2022, half 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 7.7%, is the second best performing major metro. Dallas (7.8%) is first and Fort Worth (4.2%) at sixth is also in the top 10. San Antonio (2.0%) ranks 14th, while Houston (1.2%) ranks 17th. Philadelphia ranks 50th with May 2022 jobs 3.6% below February 2020.

Texas regained its pandemic-related job losses in October 2021 in the not-seasonally-adjusted series. Total nonfarm jobs are 446,500 jobs or 3.5% above February 2020. The U.S. tops it’s pre-pandemic jobs total for the first time in May—by 805,000 jobs or 0.5%.

Austin’s year-over-year increase of 6.7%, or 77,400 jobs, makes it the sixth best performing among the 50 largest metro areas. Dallas (8.2%), Fort Worth (6.5%), Houston (6.1%) and are also in the top 10. San Antonio (4.6%) ranks 26th.

For the year ending in May, private sector job growth in the Austin MSA is 7.9%, or 76,600 jobs, with gains across all major private industry sectors, but one. Austin's sizable government sector (15.9% of jobs) is up by 800 jobs or 0.4%, thus bringing the overall year-over-year job growth rate to 6.7%.

Texas saw net private sector job growth of 6.9% with all private industry sectors adding jobs over the last 12 months. Total job growth was 6.1% as the government sector, which accounts for 15.5% of total state employment, grew by only 1.5%. For the nation, private sector job growth was 5.0% for the 12 months ending in May with all private industries adding jobs. Overall job growth was lower, at 4.5%, as the government sector jobs grew by a moderate 1.3%.

Jobs in May are up by 1,600 jobs or 0.1% from April in the not-seasonally-adjusted series for Austin. In the seasonally adjusted series, jobs are up by 1,800 or 0.1%. Seasonally adjusted jobs are up by 0.7% in Dallas, 0.5% in Fort Worth and Houston, and 0.4% in San Antonio. Statewide, seasonally adjusted jobs are up 74,200 or 0.6%. Nationally, seasonally adjusted jobs are up from April by 390,000 or 0.3%.

In Austin, 10 of the 11 major private industry sectors added jobs over the last 12 months, most notably leisure and hospitality (15.1% or 17,900 jobs); information (11.3% or 5,000 jobs); professional and business services (10.9% or 25,000); and transportation, warehousing, and utilities (10.8% or 3,000). Only construction and natural resources lost jobs (1.4% or 1,000 jobs).

Ten private industries in Austin have surpassed pre-pandemic employment and one has yet to regain 2020’s losses. Leisure and hospitality shed 62,200 jobs in March and April of 2020 (45% of all jobs lost). With positive growth in 20 of the last 25 months, the industry finally regained those lost jobs in April. Employment now stands at 136,400, 1.6% above February 2020. Other services is now the lone private industry that has not regained February 2020’s level of employment. Other services stands at 2,700 jobs (5.7%) below its pre-pandemic level. Other services is largely comprised of repair and maintenance; personal and laundry services; and religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations.

Additional graphs: New/lost jobs by industry, Apr.-May 2022 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 leisure and hospitality (12.7%) and information (9.5%). Nine industries currently have more jobs now than they did in February 2020, most notably transportation, warehousing and utilities, which is up by 11.2%. Two private industries, construction and natural resources and other services, have yet to regain 2020 losses.

Nationally, all private industries added jobs over the 12 months ending in May, led by leisure and hospitality (12.7%) and transportation, warehousing and utilities (7.2%). Relative to February 2020, eight industries have recovered pandemic-related job losses and three have not (education and health services, leisure and hospitality, and other services).

Over the last 12 months, the net gain for private service-providing industries in Austin is 72,300 jobs, or 8.7%. Employment in goods-producing industries is up by 4,300 jobs or 3.1%. Statewide, private service-providing industries are up 605,400 or 6.8%, and goods-producing industries are up 128,300 or 7.2%.

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 by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics until June 29. In April, Austin had the 12th 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 2.7%, while the other major Texas metros range from 3.3% in Dallas to 4.3% in Houston. Fort Worth and San Antonio are at 3.4% and 3.5%, respectively. Austin’s rate one year ago was 4.1%. The rates in the other major Texas metros are reduced from a year ago by 1.7 to 2.1 percentage points. The statewide rate is now 3.8%, down from 5.7% in May of last year. The national unemployment rate is 3.4%, down from 5.5% 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, Travis County has the lowest unemployment rate at 2.6% in May, while Caldwell County has the highest at 3.3%. The rate is 2.7% in Williamson County, 2.8% in Hays County, and 3.1% in Bastrop County.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, Austin’s May unemployment rate is 3.1%, up from 3.0% in April. The statewide rate is 4.2%, improved from 4.3%, and the national rate is 3.6%, unchanged from April.

Among Texas’ other major metros, Dallas and Fort Worth have the next lowest seasonally adjusted May unemployment rates, 3.8% and 3.9% respectively, while San Antonio is at 4.0%, and Houston’s rate is 4.9%. 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 data.)

In February 2020, before pandemic impacts, the number unemployed in Austin was 32,302. The number climbed to 130,460 in April and also exceeded 100,000 in May and June. In May 2022, unemployed stands at 36,162. That is 6.8% above the level of February 2020. That the number of unemployed in Austin presently exceeds pre-pandemic levels is in part a reflection of labor force growth.

The Austin metro’s civilian labor force (employed plus unemployed) fell by 97,419 persons or 7.7% in March and April of 2020, while persons employed decreased by 195,577 or 16.0%. Labor force now stands at 6.9% above what it was in February 2020 and employed is estimated at 6.8% above. Over the last 12 months, labor force increased 4.1% and employed by 5.6%. Over the last month, labor force dropped by 0.1% and employed by 0.3%.

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

Texas’ labor force is 431,337 or 3.1% above pre-pandemic February 2020, while employment is higher by 358,070 or 2.6%. Thus, the number of unemployed is up by 73,267 or 15.2%.

Nationally, civilian labor force and employment surpassed February 2020 for the first time in March. However, as appeared in Austin and Texas, labor force and employed declined between March and April. In May, the national labor force is currently down by 78,000 or 0.05% but employed is up by 592,000 or 0.4% compared to February 2020. The number of unemployed has contracted by 670,000 or 10.8%).

The Texas Workforce Commission and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 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. The Central Texas Economy in Perspective page provides an archive of past articles on the labor market and many other topics.

Related Categories: Central Texas Economy in Perspective