Job growth & unemployment

Posted on 07/23/2019 by Beverly Kerr

  • Austin added 22,800 net new jobs, growth of 2.1%, in the 12 months ending in June, making Austin the 15th fastest growing major metro.
  • Wholesale trade grew by 5.6% (2,800 jobs), making it Austin’s fastest growing industry, while professional and business services added the most jobs, 7,600 (or 4.1%), over the last 12 months.
  • Austin's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 2.6%, up from 2.5% in May.

The Austin metropolitan area added 22,800 net new jobs, or 2.1%, in the 12 months ending in June, according to Friday's releases of preliminary Current Employment Statistics (CES) payroll jobs numbers by the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Austin’s 2.1% growth makes it the 15th best performing among the 50 largest metro areas. Dallas and Houston, gaining 3.7% and 2.7% respectively, made the top ten. Fort Worth and San Antonio, gaining 2.2% and 1.3% respectively, ranked 13th and 35th. (See a SIDEBAR at the bottom of this page for comments about signals that the monthly CES estimates may be currently understating job growth in Austin.)

For the year ending in June, private sector growth in the Austin MSA is 2.5%, or 22,600 jobs, with all private industry divisions, but one, adding jobs. Austin's sizable government sector (17% of jobs) grew by only 200 jobs or 0.1%, thus bringing the overall growth rate to 2.1%.

Texas saw net private sector job growth of 2.9% with all private industries, but one, adding jobs over the last 12 months. Total job growth was 2.5% as the government sector, which accounts for nearly 16% of total state employment, saw slight growth (0.5%). For the nation, private sector growth is 1.7% for the 12 months ending in June with all private industries, but two, adding jobs. Overall job growth is a more modest 1.5% because of minor (0.6%) government sector growth.

Jobs in June are up from the preceding month by 4,700 jobs or 0.4% in the not-seasonally-adjusted series for Austin. In the seasonally adjusted series, growth is also positive, up by 4,000 jobs or 0.4%. Seasonally adjusted jobs are up by 0.5% in Dallas, 0.4% in Fort Worth, 0.3% in Houston, and 0.2% in San Antonio. Statewide, seasonally adjusted jobs are up 45,000 or 0.4%. Nationally, seasonally adjusted jobs are up from May by 0.1%.

In Austin, professional and business services added the most jobs, 7,600 (4.1%), over the last 12 months. The fastest growing industry was wholesale trade which grew by 5.6% or 2,800 jobs. Also growing at faster-than-average rates are construction and natural resources (5.4% or 3,500); information (4.8% or 1,600); financial activities (3.5% or 2,200); and transportation, warehousing and utilities (3.2% or 700).

Statewide, construction and natural resources grew fastest, by 5.1%, over the last 12 months. Other relatively fast growing industries included wholesale trade (3.9%); transportation, warehousing and utilities (3.8%); other services (3.7%), and leisure and hospitality (3.5%). Information jobs fell by 1.5%.

Nationally, construction and natural resources grew fastest, adding 2.7% over the 12 months ending in June. Education and health services (2.6%); transportation, warehousing, and utilities (2.5%); professional and business services (2.2%); and leisure and hospitality (2.0%) were also relatively fast growing. Information and retail trade lost jobs (1.2% and 0.4% respectively).

The net gain for private service-providing industries in Austin is 18,600 jobs, or 2.4%, over the last 12 months. Employment in goods producing industries is up by 4,000 jobs or 3.2%. Statewide, private service-providing industries are up 229,100, or 2.6%, and goods producing industries are up 75,800 jobs, or 4.0%.

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 until August 1. In May, Austin had the third lowest rate of unemployment among the 50 largest metros (lower rates prevailed in San Francisco and San Jose).

Unemployment numbers for June show Austin’s performance relative to the state and other major Texas metros being sustained. In June, Austin is at 2.7%, while the other major metros range from 3.2% in San Antonio to 3.8% in Houston. Dallas and Fort Worth are at 3.3%. Austin’s rate one year ago was 3.2%. The rates in the other major Texas metros are also improved from a year ago. The statewide not-seasonally-adjusted rate is now 3.6%, down from 4.2% in June of last year. The national unemployment rate is 3.8%, improved from 4.2% a year ago.

Within the Austin MSA, Travis County has the lowest unemployment rate in June, at 2.6%, while Caldwell County has the highest at 3.5%. The rate is 2.8% in Williamson County, 2.9% in Hays County, and 3.3% in Bastrop County.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, Austin’s June unemployment rate is 2.6%, up from 2.5% in May. The statewide seasonally adjusted rate is 3.4% in June, down from 3.5% in May. The national rate is 3.7% in June, up from 3.6% in May.

Among Texas’ major metros, San Antonio has the next lowest seasonally adjusted rate at 3.0%, while Dallas is at 3.1%, Fort Worth is at 3.2%, and Houston is at 3.6%. Each metro’s rate is up from May. 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 fallen. In June 2018, Austin’s number of unemployed was 38,577. Over the last 12 months, the unemployed declined by 5,380 or 13.9%, to 33,197. This is due to a larger increase in the number employed, compared to labor force. The Austin metro’s civilian labor force (employed plus unemployed) increased by 14,658 persons or 1.2% from one year ago, while persons employed increased by 20,038 or 1.7%.

Texas’ employment growth (260,557 or 1.7%) also exceeds labor force growth (176,769 or 1.2%). Thus, the number of unemployed decreased by 83,788 or 14.3%. Nationally, June civilian labor force is up by 843,000 or 0.5%, while employed is above the level of a year ago by 1,363,000 or 0.9%, and 520,000 fewer people (7.6%) are unemployed.

The TWC and the BLS will release July estimates on August 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.


As we’ve noted in the last few monthly articles about the CES data, when we see atypical growth rates in Austin’s nonfarm payroll jobs data, we sometimes look at an alternative payroll jobs dataset, the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) to see how consistent the two datasets appear. QCEW, which is derived from the universe of unemployment insurance-covered employer payroll records, informs the annual benchmark revisions to the sample-survey-based CES data. QCEW data, which is presently available through December 2018, gives some evidence that Austin’s recent job growth may be more robust than preliminary CES data indicates.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas produces a version of nonfarm payroll jobs that benchmarks to QCEW data quarterly instead of annually. According to the Dallas Fed’s early-benchmarked and seasonally adjusted data, Austin’s job growth for the year ending in June is 3.1%, which is substantially higher than the BLS/TWC estimate of 2.2% in their seasonally adjusted series (year over year growth in the not-seasonally-adjusted data is 2.1%).

Due to issues of timeliness and for comparison to other geographic areas, this article, like most reporting elsewhere, remains focused on the BLS/TWC CES data, but it can be helpful to be aware of limitations of the sample survey and the potential for actual growth to be higher or lower than preliminary estimates indicate.

As a relatively fast growing metro, it may be that the sample survey of employers in our area sometimes becomes insufficiently representative. With unemployment as low as it has been in Austin over the last couple of years, and for other reasons, such as a probable decrease in migration due to similarly low unemployment rates elsewhere, it is reasonable to expect job growth to slow, but with the divergence between CES and QCEW data we see in 2018 Q4, there is some room to question if growth is currently quite as low as 2.2%.

Note that the Excel file of nonfarm payroll jobs time series data on the Chamber’s Economic Indicators page includes not only the CES data (total, private, and major industry sectors), but also the QCEW series (total and private industry), and the seasonally adjusted and early-benchmarked Dallas Fed series (total).

Related Categories: Central Texas Economy in Perspective