Job growth & unemployment

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Posted on 06/23/2021 by Beverly Kerr

  • Adding jobs in 12 of the last 13 months, Austin has regained 91% of last spring’s pandemic-related job losses.
  • Austin’s 1.1% deficit in jobs compared to pre-pandemic February 2020 is more moderate than the declines seen in all but two other major metros.
  • Austin’s leisure and hospitality industry added 4,800 jobs in May and has seen 74% of the 61,500 jobs lost in March and April of 2020 return.
  • Austin's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate decreased from 4.8% in April to 4.6% in May.

Nonfarm payroll jobs

Austin’s nonfarm payroll jobs total as of May is 1,129,800. 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 12 of the last 13 months has brought back 124,400, or 91%, of those jobs.

Comparing metros based on where they stand in growth over pre-pandemic February 2020, Austin’s 1.1% deficit makes it the third best performing major metro. San Antonio and Dallas are also in the top 10, while Fort Worth (-2.8%) ranks 15thand Houston (-4.8%) ranks 29th. Orlando ranks 50th with May 2021 jobs 10.7% below February 2020.

Austin’s year-over-year increase of 9.6%, or 98,900 jobs, makes it the 15th best performing among the 50 largest metro areas. San Antonio, up 8.5%, ranks 20th; Dallas, up 7.7% ranks 30th; Fort Worth, up 6.9%, ranks 43rd, and Houston ranks 50th with growth of 4.8%. 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 May, private sector job growth in the Austin MSA is 11.2%, or 94,900 jobs, with gains across all major private industry sectors. Austin's sizable government sector (17% of jobs) is up by only 2.2% (4,000 jobs), thus bringing the overall year-over-year job loss rate to 9.6%.

Texas saw net private sector job growth of 7.8% with all but one private industry sector (construction and natural resources) adding jobs over the last 12 months. Total job growth was 6.9% as the government sector, which accounts for 15% of total state employment, saw relatively slight growth (2.4%). For the nation, private sector job growth was 10.4% for the 12 months ending in May with all private industries adding jobs. Overall job growth was lower, at 9.0%, as government sector jobs gained only 1.6%.

Jobs in May are up by 4,500 jobs or 0.4% from April in the not-seasonally-adjusted series for Austin. In the seasonally adjusted series, jobs increased by 2,300 or 0.2%. Seasonally adjusted jobs are up by 0.7% in Dallas, 0.3% in Houston, and 0.2% in Fort Worth, but down by 0.1% in San Antonio. Statewide, seasonally adjusted jobs are up 34,400 or 0.3%. Nationally, seasonally adjusted jobs are up from April by 559,000 or 0.4%.

In Austin, all private industry sectors added jobs over the last 12 months, most notably leisure and hospitality (35.7% or 31,200 jobs), other services (18.5% or 6,800), and retail trade (14.3% or 13,700). The slowest growing industry, based on percent change from May 2020, is education and health services, which is up 2.6%.

Seven private industries in Austin have surpassed pre-pandemic employment and four 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 10 of the last 13 months, the industry has regained 45,700 of those jobs (37% of all jobs added over the 13 months). As of May, employment stands at 118,500. The last time Austin’s leisure and hospitality industry had a similar level of employment was early 2016. The other two industries that have not regained February 2020’s level of employment are education and health services (-8.5%), other services (-8.4%), and manufacturing (-1.1%).

Additional graph New/lost jobs by industry: April-May 2021

Statewide, over the last 12 months, all industries added jobs except construction and natural resources. That industry is down by 0.4%. As in Austin, the two industries with most significant growth are leisure and hospitality (26.3%) and other services (14.1%). Only three industries currently have more jobs now than they did in February 2020, notably transportation, warehousing and utilities, which is up by 6.0%. 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 May, led by leisure and hospitality (41.7%), other services (16.9%), and retail trade (11.2%). 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 90,400 jobs, or 12.6%. Employment in goods producing industries is up by 4,500 jobs or 3.5%. Statewide, private service-providing industries are up 757,300 or 9.4%, and goods producing industries are up 10,600 or 0.6%.

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 until June 2. In April, Austin had the 14th lowest rate of unemployment among the 50 largest metros. Across Texas’ major metros, seasonally adjusted May rates are below April by 0.2 to 0.4 percentage points.

In May, Austin’s not-seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate is at 4.2%, while the other major Texas metros range from 5.2% in Dallas to 6.6% in Houston. San Antonio and Fort Worth are at 5.3% and 5.4%, respectively. Austin’s rate one year ago was 10.4%. The rates in the other major Texas metros are reduced from a year ago by 6.1 to 6.6 percentage points. The statewide rate is now 5.9%, down from 11.8% in May of last year. The national unemployment rate is 5.5%, down from 13.0% 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 and Williamson Counties have the lowest unemployment rate at 4.2% in May, while Caldwell county has the highest at 5.1%. The rate is 4.3% in Hays County and 4.6% in Bastrop County.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, Austin’s May unemployment rate is 4.6%, down from 4.8% in April. The statewide rate is 6.5%, down from 6.7%, and the national rate is 5.8%, down from 6.1% in April.

Among Texas’ other major metros, Dallas has the next lowest seasonally adjusted unemployment rate, at 5.6%, in May, while San Antonio and Fort Worth are at 5.7% and 5.8% respectively. Houston’s rate is 7.2%. 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 33,307. The number climbed to 138,731 in April and also exceeded 100,000 in May and June. In May 2021, unemployed stands at 54,040, 62% 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 0.1% below what it was in February 2020 but employed is estimated at 1.7% below. Over the last month, labor force grew 0.2% and employed went up by 0.5%.

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

Texas’ labor force is 201,536 or 1.4% below pre-pandemic February 2020, while employment is lower by 529,211 or 3.8%. Thus, the number of unemployed is up by 327,675 or 65%. Nationally, May 2021 civilian labor force is down by 3.6 million or 2.2% from February 2020, while employed is below the level seen in February 2020 by 6.2 million or 3.9%, and 2.6 million more people (42%) are unemployed.

The Texas Workforce Commission and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics will release June estimates on July 16.

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