Austin Chamber

June 30, 2015 – Job Growth & Unemployment

Posted By Beverly Kerr | Jun 30, 2015
Central Texas Economy in Perspective Print Article Austin Chamber
  • Austin added 32,200 net new jobs, or 3.5%, in the 12 months ending in May, making it the eighth fastest growing major metro.

  • May’s year-over-year job growth is higher than any month since last October.

  • Seasonally adjusted job growth from April to May is a robust 0.8%.

  • Since last May, the number of unemployed has declined by 10,039 or 23.3%.

  • At 3.2%, seasonally adjusted unemployment is at its lowest level since before the early 2000s "dot-com" recession.

The Austin metropolitan area added 32,200 jobs, or 3.5%, in the 12 months ending in May, according to the latest release of payroll jobs numbers by the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Austin’s 3.5% growth makes it the eighth best performing among the 50 largest metro areas. Dallas grew by 3.8%, ranking sixth. The other major Texas metros missed the top 10.  San Antonio grew by 3.1% (16th), Fort Worth grew by 2.5% (26th), and Houston grew by 2.1% (30th) between May 2014 and May 2015.

For the year ending in May, private sector job growth in the Austin MSA is 4.1%, or 30,600 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 1,600 jobs or 0.9%, thus bringing the overall job growth rate to 3.5%.

Texas saw weaker net private sector job growth of 2.7% with all private industry divisions, except manufacturing, adding jobs over the last 12 months. As with Austin, total job growth statewide is lower, 2.5%, due to the only moderate growth (1.3%) in the government sector, which accounts for over 16% of total state employment. For the nation, private sector growth is 2.6% for the 12 months ending in May, with all private industries adding jobs. Overall job growth is a more modest 2.2% because the government sector gained only 0.5%.

Jobs in May are up from the preceding month by 6,800 jobs or 0.7% in the not-seasonally-adjusted series for Austin, however, April-to-May change on a seasonally adjusted basis is up 7,700 jobs or 0.8%. Statewide, seasonally adjusted jobs are up 33,200 or 0.3%. On a seasonally adjusted basis, jobs are also up in San Antonio (0.2%) and Houston (0.1%), down in Fort Worth (-0.1%), and essentially unchanged in Dallas (-0.0%). Nationally, seasonally adjusted jobs rose 0.2% in May.

In Austin, the industry growing fastest and adding the most jobs is leisure and hospitality which grew by 7.9% or 8,500 jobs, over the last 12 months. Also growing at faster-than-average rates are information (6.6% or 1,600 jobs), wholesale trade (6.1% or 2,700 jobs), and education and health services (4.7% or 5,000 jobs). The smallest private sector growth occurred in manufacturing which gained 0.5% or 300 jobs.

Statewide, leisure and hospitality also grew faster and added the most jobs, 5.5% or 66,600 jobs. The other relatively fast growing industries were education and health services (up 3.8%); and retail trade (3.6%); transportation, warehousing and utilities (3.4%); wholesale trade (2.9%); and financial activities (2.8%). Manufacturing declined by 15,800 jobs (-1.8%).

Nationally, professional and business services grew faster and added the most jobs (3.6% or 686,000 jobs) over the 12 months ending in May. Construction and natural resources (up 3.5%); leisure and hospitality (3.0%); education and health services (2.9%); and transportation, warehousing and utilities (2.7%) also grew at faster-than-average rates. No industry lost jobs.

The net gain for private service-providing industries in Austin is 28,800 jobs, or 4.5%, over the last 12 months and the net gain for goods producing industries is 1,700, or 1.7%. Statewide, private service-providing industries are up 266,700 or 3.4% but goods producing industries are down 3,900 or -0.2%.

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 tomorrow, July 1. 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 3.1%, while the other major metros range from 3.6% in San Antonio to 4.2% in Houston. Dallas and Fort Worth are at 3.7% and 3.9% respectively. Austin’s rate one year ago was 4.1%. The rates in Texas’ other major metros are 0.7 (Houston) to 1.3 (Dallas) percentage points improved on the rates seen a year ago. The statewide not-seasonally-adjusted rate is now 4.1%, compared to 5.0% in May of last year. The May national rate is 5.3% compared to 6.1% in May of last year.

In 2007, before the impact of the Great Recession, unemployment averaged 3.6% in Austin, 4.3% in Texas, and 4.6% nationally. Based on the average unemployment rates for the first five months of 2015, unemployment is lower in Austin (3.3%) and Texas (4.2%) than it was before the recession, while the nation, with unemployment averaging 5.6%, still has ground to make up.

Within the Austin MSA, Travis County has the lowest unemployment rate in May, at 3.0%, while Caldwell County has the highest at 3.9%. The rate is 3.2% in Hays and Williamson Counties, and 3.5% in Bastrop County.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, Austin’s May unemployment rate is 3.2%, improved from 3.3% in April. Austin has not seen unemployment this low since February 2001.

San Antonio has the next lowest seasonally adjusted rate at 3.6%, while Dallas, Fort Worth, and Houston are at 3.8%, 3.9% and 4.2% respectively. May rates are improved from April in each metro except Houston which is unchanged. The statewide rate is 4.3%, up 4.2% in April. Nationally, the seasonally adjusted unemployment is 5.5% in May, up from 5.4% in April. 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 2014, Austin’s number of unemployed was 43,017, and has decreased by 10,039 or 23.3%, to 32,978. The last time the number unemployed was lower was in April of 2008. Unemployment averaged more than 60,000 for three years running during the Great Recession.  

The Austin metro’s civilian labor force (employed plus unemployed) increased by 11,196 or 1.1% in the last 12 months, while persons employed increased by 21,235 or 2.1%. Texas also saw larger growth in employed (1.1%) than in labor force (0.1%), and 119,269 fewer people (18.1%) are unemployed. Nationally, May civilian labor force is up by 1.2%, while employed is above the level of a year ago by 2.0%, and 1.1 million fewer people (11.4%) are unemployed.

Texas Workforce Commission will release June estimates on July 17.

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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.