Job growth & unemployment

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Posted on 08/24/2021 by Beverly Kerr

  • Adding jobs in 14 of the last 15 months, Austin has regained all but 300 of spring 2020’s pandemic-related job losses.
  • Austin ranks as the 2nd best performing major job market since the beginning of the pandemic.
  • Austin’s leisure and hospitality industry added 5,100 jobs in July and has seen 86% of the 61,500 jobs lost in March and April of 2020 return.
  • Austin's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate decreased from 4.4% in June to 4.0% in July.

Nonfarm payroll jobs

Austin’s nonfarm payroll jobs total as of July is 1,142,100 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 14 of the last 15 months has brought back all but 300 of those jobs.

Comparing metros based on where they stand compared to pre-pandemic February 2020, Austin’s 0.03% deficit makes it the second best performing major metro. Dallas and San Antonio are also in the top 10, while Fort Worth (-3.1%) ranks 20th and Houston (-4.8%) ranks 33rd. Philadelphia ranks 50th with July 2021 jobs 9.7% below February 2020.

Austin’s year-over-year increase of 7.6%, or 81,100 jobs, makes it the fourth best performing among the 50 largest metro areas. Dallas is also in the top 10. San Antonio, up 6.4%, ranks 12th; Houston, up 4.7%, ranks 33rd; and Fort Worth ranks 42nd with growth of 3.8% since July 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 July, private sector job growth in the Austin MSA is 9.4%, or 82,700 jobs, with gains across all major private industry sectors. Austin's sizable government sector (17% of jobs) is down by 0.9% (1,600 jobs), thus bringing the overall year-over-year job growth rate to 7.6%.

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% of total state employment, saw relatively slight growth (1.5%). For the nation, private sector job growth was 5.8% for the 12 months ending in July with all private industries adding jobs. Overall job growth was lower, at 5.3%, as government sector jobs gained only 2.3%.

Jobs in July are up by 5,600 jobs or 0.5% from June in the not-seasonally-adjusted series for Austin. In the seasonally adjusted series, jobs increased by 13,700 or 1.2%. Seasonally adjusted jobs are up by 0.7% in Dallas, 0.2% in Houston, and 0.1% in Fort Worth, but down by 0.1% in San Antonio. Statewide, seasonally adjusted jobs are up 80,900 or 0.6%. Nationally, seasonally adjusted jobs are up from June by 943,000 or 0.6%.

In Austin, all private industry sectors added jobs over the last 12 months, most notably leisure and hospitality (29.4% or 28,500 jobs); professional and business services (13.0% or 25,600); and transportation, warehousing and utilities (10.1% or 2,600). The slowest growing industry, based on percent change from July 2020, is education and health services, which is up 1.0%.

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 12 of the last 15 months, the industry has regained 52,600 of those jobs (38% of all jobs added over the 13 months). As of July, employment stands at 125,400. That’s fewer jobs than the industry had four years ago. The other two industries that have not regained February 2020’s level of employment are education and health services and other services—both are down 7.2%.

Additional graph – new/lost jobs by industry: June-July 2021

Statewide, over the last 12 months, all industries added jobs. As in Austin, the two industries with the most significant growth are leisure and hospitality (20.4%) and professional and business services (8.8%). Only five industries currently have more jobs now than they did in February 2020, notably transportation, warehousing and utilities, which is up by 6.6%. Professional and business services, financial activities, retail trade, and wholesale trade have also regained last year’s losses.

Nationally, all private industries added jobs over the 12 months ending in July, led by leisure and hospitality (18.5%); other services (7.3%); and transportation, warehousing and utilities (6.8%). 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 79,400 jobs, or 10.6%. Employment in goods producing industries is up by 3,300 jobs or 2.5%. Statewide, private service-providing industries are up 641,700 or 7.7%, and goods producing industries are up 53,400 or 3.1%.

Labor force, employment & unemployment

We also now have July 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 September 1. In June, Austin had the ninth lowest rate of unemployment among the 50 largest metros. Across Texas’ major metros, seasonally adjusted July rates are below June by 0.3 to 0.5 percentage points.

In July, Austin’s not-seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate is at 4.2%, while the other major Texas metros range from 5.2% in Dallas to 6.8% in Houston. San Antonio and Fort Worth are at 5.4% and 5.5%, respectively. Austin’s rate one year ago was 7.8%. The rates in the other major Texas metros are reduced from a year ago by 3.4 to 4.3 percentage points. The statewide rate is now 6.0%, down from 9.6% in July of last year. The national unemployment rate is 5.7%, down from 10.5% 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 4.1% in July, while Caldwell County has the highest at 5.3%. The rate is 4.2% in Williamson County, 4.4% in Hays County, and 4.9% in Bastrop County.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, Austin’s July unemployment rate is 4.0%, down from 4.4% in June. The statewide rate is 6.2%, down from 6.5%, and the national rate is 5.4%, down from 5.9% in June.

Among Texas’ other major metros, Dallas and San Antonio have the next lowest seasonally adjusted unemployment rate, 5.0%, in July, while Fort Worth is at 5.2%, and Houston’s rate is 6.5%. 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 July 2021, unemployed stands at 54,605, 64% 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 1.5% above what it was in February 2020 but employed is estimated at 0.2% below. Over the last month, labor force grew 1.2% and employed by 1.8%.

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

Texas’ labor force is 70,381 or 0.5% below pre-pandemic February 2020, while employment is lower by 420,446 or 3.1%. Thus, the number of unemployed is up by 350,065 or 70%. Nationally, July 2021 civilian labor force is down by 1.4 million or 0.9% from February 2020, while employed is below the level seen in February 2020 by 4.4 million or 2.8%, and 3.0 million more people (48%) are unemployed.

The Texas Workforce Commission and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics will release August estimates on September 17.

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