Job growth & unemployment

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Posted on 07/20/2021 by Beverly Kerr

  • Adding jobs in 13 of the last 14 months, Austin has regained 96% of spring 2020’s pandemic-related job losses.
  • Austin’s 0.5% 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 2,300 jobs in June and has seen 77% of the 61,500 jobs lost in March and April of 2020 return.
  • Austin's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate decreased from 4.6% in May to 4.4% in June.

Nonfarm payroll jobs

Austin’s nonfarm payroll jobs total as of June is 1,137,000 according to Friday’s release of monthly labor market data by the Texas Workforce Commission. 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 13 of the last 14 months has brought back 131,600, or 96%, of those jobs.

Comparing metros based on where they stand in growth over pre-pandemic February 2020, Austin’s 0.5% deficit makes it the third best performing major metro. Dallas and San Antonio are also in the top 10, while Fort Worth (-2.8%) ranks 18th and Houston (-4.6%) ranks 31st. Orlando ranks 50th with June 2021 jobs 10.4% below February 2020.

Austin’s year-over-year increase of 7.3%, or 77,200 jobs, makes it the 11th best performing among the 50 largest metro areas. Dallas, up 6.5% ranks 16th; San Antonio, up 6.3%, ranks 18th; Fort Worth, up 4.0%, ranks 46th, and Houston ranks 49th with growth of 3.4% since June 2020. 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 June, private sector job growth in the Austin MSA is 8.3%, or 72,900 jobs, with gains across all major private industry sectors. Austin's sizable government sector (17% of jobs) is up by only 2.3% (4,300 jobs), thus bringing the overall year-over-year job growth rate to 7.3%.

Texas saw net private sector job growth of 6.1% with all private industry sectors adding jobs over the last 12 months. Total job growth was 5.5% as the government sector, which accounts for 15% of total state employment, saw relatively slight growth (2.5%). For the nation, private sector job growth was 6.4% for the 12 months ending in June with all private industries adding jobs. Overall job growth was lower, at 5.8%, as government sector jobs gained only 2.3%.

Jobs in June are up by 8,200 jobs or 0.7% from May in the not-seasonally-adjusted series for Austin. In the seasonally adjusted series, jobs increased by 4,200 or 0.4%. Seasonally adjusted jobs are up by 0.6% in Dallas, 0.4% in San Antonio, and 0.1% in Houston, but down by 0.1% in Fort Worth. Statewide, seasonally adjusted jobs are up 55,800 or 0.4%. Nationally, seasonally adjusted jobs are up from May by 850,000 or 0.6%.

In Austin, all private industry sectors added jobs over the last 12 months, most notably leisure and hospitality (20.9% or 20,800 jobs); professional and business services (11.3% or 22,000); and transportation, warehousing and utilities (10.6% or 2,700). The slowest growing industry, based on percent change from June 2020, is education and health services, which is up 1.6%.

Eight private industries in Austin have surpassed pre-pandemic employment and three 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 11 of the last 14 months, the industry has regained 47,300 of those jobs (36% of all jobs added over the 13 months). As of June, employment stands at 120,100. That’s fewer jobs than the industry had five years ago. The other two industries that have not regained February 2020’s level of employment are education and health services (-7.6%) and other services (-6.3%).

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

Statewide, over the last 12 months, all industries added jobs. As in Austin, the three industries with the most significant growth are leisure and hospitality (16.8%); professional and business services (9.5%); and transportation, warehousing and utilities (7.1%). Only four industries currently have more jobs now than they did in February 2020, notably transportation, warehousing and utilities, which is up by 6.0%. Professional and business services, financial activities, and retail trade have also regained last year’s losses.

Nationally, all private industries added jobs over the 12 months ending in June, led by leisure and hospitality (21.3%); other services (9.4%); and transportation, warehousing and utilities (6.9%). Relative to February 2020, only construction and natural resources and financial activities have recovered pandemic-related job losses.

Over the last 12 months, the net gain for private service-providing industries in Austin is 68,900 jobs, or 9.3%. Employment in goods producing industries is up by 4,000 jobs or 3.0%. Statewide, private service-providing industries are up 593,100 or 7.1%, and goods producing industries are up 25,100 or 1.4%.

Labor force, employment & unemployment

We also now have June 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 July 28. In May, Austin had the eighth lowest rate of unemployment among the 50 largest metros. Across Texas’ major metros, seasonally adjusted June rates are below May by 0.2 to 0.3 percentage points.

In June, Austin’s not-seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate is at 4.8%, while the other major Texas metros range from 5.8% in Dallas to 7.4% in Houston. San Antonio and Fort Worth are at 6.0% and 6.2%, respectively. Austin’s rate one year ago was 8.7%. The rates in the other major Texas metros are reduced from a year ago by 3.7 to 4.2 percentage points. The statewide rate is now 6.6%, down from 10.3% in June of last year. The national unemployment rate is 6.1%, down from 11.2% 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 4.7% in June, while Caldwell County has the highest at 6.0%. The rate is 5.0% in Hays County and 5.5% in Bastrop County.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, Austin’s June unemployment rate is 4.4%, down from 4.6% in May. The statewide rate is 6.5%, down from 6.6%, and the national rate is 5.9%, up from 5.8% in May.

Among Texas’ other major metros, Dallas has the next lowest seasonally adjusted unemployment rate, at 5.4%, in June, while San Antonio and Fort Worth are at 5.5% and 5.6%, respectively. Houston’s rate is 6.9%. 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 33,307. The number climbed to 138,731 in April and also exceeded 100,000 in May and June. In June 2021, unemployed stands at 61,145, 84% 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 0.3% above what it was in February 2020 but employed is estimated at 1.9% below. Over the last month, labor force grew 0.4% and employed dropped by 0.1%.

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

Texas’ labor force is 135,683 or 1.0% below pre-pandemic February 2020, while employment is lower by 572,949 or 4.2%. Thus, the number of unemployed is up by 437,266 or 87%. Nationally, June 2021 civilian labor force is down by 2.0 million or 1.3% from February 2020, while employed is below the level seen in February 2020 by 5.7 million or 3.6%, and 3.7 million more people (59%) are unemployed.

The Texas Workforce Commission and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics will release July estimates on August 20.

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