Job growth & unemployment

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Posted on 08/25/2020 by Beverly Kerr

  • Austin added 3,700 jobs in July, narrowing pandemic-related job losses to 68,000.
  • After regaining over 35,000 lost jobs in May and June, Austin’s leisure and hospitality industry lost 2,700 jobs in July, and employment stands at 75% of its pre-pandemic level.
  • Austin’s 4.0% year-over-year job loss is more moderate than the declines seen in most major metros.
  • Austin's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 5.9%, down from 6.3% in June. The rate was 2.6% a year ago.

Nonfarm payroll jobs

The Austin metropolitan area added 3,700 jobs in July, narrowing pandemic-related job losses to 68,000, 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 nonfarm payroll jobs total as of July is 1,069,900. The last time Austin had approximately the same number of jobs was spring 2018. In February, before the impacts from COVID-19, Austin had an estimated 1,137,900 jobs (38,000 jobs or 3.5% above the same month of 2019—an average trajectory for Austin in recent years). Combining job losses for March and April, Austin lost 128,600 jobs, or 11.4%. Growth in May, June and July has brought back 60,600 of those jobs.

Austin’s year-over-year decline of 4.0%, or 44,800 jobs, makes it the seventh best performing among the 50 largest metro areas. Dallas and Fort Worth also ranked in the top 10. San Antonio’s loss of 4.7% ranked 11th and Houston’s 6.0% decline ranked 16th. The deepest loss among major metros was that of New York (14.2%).

For the year ending in July, private sector job loss in the Austin MSA is 4.3%, or 40,700 jobs, with losses occurring in six of the 11 major private industry sectors. Austin's sizable government sector (17% of jobs) shrank more moderately, by 4,100 jobs or 2.3%, thus bringing the overall growth rate to 4.0%.

Texas saw net private sector job losses of 5.8% with all private industry sectors losing jobs over the last 12 months. Total job losses were only 5.3% as the government sector, which accounts for 15% of total state employment, had slighter losses (2.3%). For the nation, private sector losses were 8.2% for the 12 months ending in July with all private industries losing jobs. Overall job loss was 7.7% as government sector’s losses were relatively moderate (4.5%).

Jobs in July are up by 3,700 jobs or 0.3% from June in the not-seasonally-adjusted series for Austin. In the seasonally adjusted series, jobs increased by 13,300 or 1.3%. Seasonally adjusted jobs are up by 0.4% Fort Worth and 0.1% in Dallas, and down 0.1% in Houston and San Antonio. Statewide, seasonally adjusted jobs are up 31,400 or 0.3%. Nationally, seasonally adjusted jobs are up from June by 1.76 million or 1.3%.

In Austin, five private industry sectors have positive growth over the last 12 months, most notably financial activities (11.4% or 7,600 jobs); followed by manufacturing (4.6% or 2,900); transportation, warehousing and utilities (3.9% or 900); construction and natural resources (3.0% or 2,100); and professional and business services (0.7% or 1,500).

Additional graphs – New/lost jobs by industry: February to July and June to July

The greatest number of job losses, and greatest percent change, over the last year happened in leisure and hospitality (25.4% or 34,900 jobs). Information also saw a double-digit loss (12.7% or 4,900). Education and health services (9.0% or 11,500) and other services (8.1% or 3,900), are also notably down. Wholesale and retail trade jobs are below what they were last July by 0.8% and 0.1% respectively.

Compared to our last pre-pandemic month, February, eight industries have lost jobs, two have gained (financial activities, up 9.7%, and manufacturing, up 3.1%), and two are holding steady (construction and natural resources and professional and business services). The most notable losses over the last five months are in leisure and hospitality (25.3% or 34,800 jobs), information (13.8%), education and health services (11.4%), other services (9.6%), and government (7.1%).

Leisure and hospitality added back 35,200 jobs in May and June, reducing what had been losses of 67,300 jobs (-48.9%) in March and April, however, the industry lost another 2,700 jobs in July. As of July, employment stands at 102,700. The last time Austin’s leisure and hospitality industry had a similar level of employment was 2013. Pre-pandemic, about 78% of Austin’s leisure and hospitality industry jobs are in food services and drinking places and, in July, the share is 80%. Losses since February represent 24,900 jobs (-23.3%) in food services and drinking places and 9,900 jobs (-32.1%) in accommodation and the remainder of leisure and hospitality.

Statewide, over the last 12 months, no industries added jobs. A double-digit loss prevails in leisure and hospitality (17.2% or 245,200 jobs) and three industries—construction and natural resources, information, and other services—are down by more than 7%.

Nationally, no industries added jobs and three industries lost job at double-digit rates over the 12 months ending in July: leisure and hospitality (24.2% or 4.2 million), information (10.6% or 305,000), and other services (10.0% or 597,000). Two more industries are down by lesser rates, but job losses in each range from 1.2 to 1.4 million (education and health services and professional and business services).

Over the last 12 months, the net loss for private service-providing industries in Austin is 45,700 jobs, or 5.7%. Employment in goods producing industries is up by 5,000 jobs or 3.8%. Statewide, private service-providing industries are down 500,100, or 5.6%, and goods producing industries are down 134,600, or 6.9%.

Between June and July, Austin’s private service providing industries added 4,200 jobs or 0.6% and goods producing industries lost 1,000 jobs or 0.7%. Statewide, jobs decreased by 15,200 or 0.2% in private service providing industries and by 8,200 or 0.5% in goods producing industries.

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 until September 2. In June, Austin had the second lowest rate of unemployment among the 50 largest metros. New unemployment numbers show Austin’s performance relative to the state and other major Texas metros being sustained.

In July, Austin’s unemployment rate is at 6.7%, while the other major Texas metros range from 7.4% in Dallas to 9.4% in Houston. Fort Worth is at 7.7% and San Antonio are at 7.9%. Austin’s rate one year ago was 2.9%. The rates in the other major Texas metros are elevated from a year ago by 3.8 to 5.3 percentage points. The statewide not-seasonally-adjusted rate is now 8.2%, up from 3.8% in July of last year. The national unemployment rate is 10.5%, up from 4.0% a year ago.

Within the Austin MSA, Williamson County has the lowest unemployment rate at 6.2% in July, while Hays County has the highest at 7.0%. The rate is 6.4% in Bastrop County, 6.8% in Caldwell County, and 6.9% in Travis County.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, Austin’s July unemployment rate is 5.9%, down from 6.3% in June. The statewide rate is 8.0%, down from 8.4%, and the national rate is 10.2%, down from 11.1% in June.

In the aftermath of the dot-com bust, the highest seasonally adjusted unemployment rate reached in Austin was 6.1%. In the Great Recession, the highest rate was 7.5% and rates over 7% prevailed for 12 months.

Among Texas’ other major metros, Dallas and Fort Worth have the next lowest seasonally adjusted unemployment rate, at 6.6%, in July, while San Antonio is at 6.9% and Houston’s rate is 8.4%. 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.)

In February, before pandemic impacts, the number unemployed in Austin was 33,432 (very close to 2019’s annual average). The number climbed to 138,785 in April. In July, the estimate of unemployed improves to 81,942, which is 125.5% above the level of one year ago.

The Austin metro’s civilian labor force (employed plus unemployed) fell by 128,719 persons or 10.2% from February to April, while persons employed decreased by 234,072 or 19.0%. Both labor force and employed regained the majority of these losses in May, June and July so that July’s labor force stands at 3.1% below what it was in February and employed is estimated at 7.2% below. Compared to one year ago, labor force is 1.3% lower and employed is 5.1% lower.

Labor force and employment also grew in May, June and July for Texas and the nation following March and April losses.

Texas’ employment is 818,546 or 6.1% below last July, while labor force is lower by 218,932 or 1.6%. Thus, the number of unemployed increased by 599,614 or 111%. Nationally, July civilian labor force is down by 3.6 million or 2.2% year-over-year, while employed is below the level seen in July 2019 by 13.9 million or 8.8%, and 10.3 million more people (158%) are unemployed.

The TWC and the BLS will release August estimates on September 18.

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