Job growth & unemployment

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Posted on 09/20/2022 by Chris Ramser

  • Austin ranks as the best performing metro since the onset of the pandemic in February 2020, adding nearly 100,000 jobs and growth of 8.6%.
  • Austin added 62,900 jobs, growth of 5.3%, in the 12 months ending in August, making it the 13th best performing among the top 50 metros.
  • Austin's leisure and hospitality industry is the best performing industry over the past year adding 15,900 jobs and growth of 12.7% since August 2021.
  • Austin's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 2.8% in August, improved from 2.9% in July.

Nonfarm payroll jobs

Austin’s nonfarm payroll jobs totaled 1,240,900 in August according to Friday's releases of monthly labor market data by the Texas Workforce Commission and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In February 2020, before the impacts from COVID-19, Austin had an estimated 1,142,500 jobs. Combining job losses for March and April 2020, Austin lost 137,100 jobs, or 12.0%. By May 2021, Austin surpassed the jobs total it had in the last pre-pandemic month.[1]

As of August 2022, 33 of the top 50 metropolitan areas (66%) have regained their pre-pandemic level of jobs. Comparing metros based on where they stand relative to pre-pandemic February 2020, Austin, up 8.6%, is the best performing major metro. Dallas (8.5%) and Fort Worth (5.0%) are also in the top 10. San Antonio (2.6%) ranks 15th, while Houston (2.5%) ranks 16th. Philadelphia ranks 50th with August 2022 jobs 3.7% below February 2020.

Texas regained its pandemic-related job losses in October 2021 in the not-seasonally-adjusted series. Total nonfarm jobs are 543,600 jobs or 4.2% above February 2020. The U.S. toped its pre-pandemic jobs total for the first time in May 2022. This month, with a 0.2% increase in not-seasonally-adjusted jobs, jobs nationally total 1.6 million or 1.1% above February 2020.

Austin’s year-over-year increase of 5.3%, or 62,900 jobs, makes it the 13th best performing among the 50 largest metro areas, falling from seventh in last month's ranking. Dallas is No. 1 with 7.1% growth and Houston, up 6.2%, and Fort Worth, up 5.8%, are also in the top 10. San Antonio (up 4.4%) ranks 24th.

For the year ending in August, private sector job growth in the Austin MSA is 6.3%, or 62,900 jobs, with gains across all major private industry sectors, but one. Jobs in Austin's sizable government sector (15.9% of jobs) was unchanged, thus bringing the overall year-over-year job growth rate to 5.3%.

Texas saw net private sector job growth of 6.4% with all private industry sectors adding jobs over the last 12 months. Total job growth was 5.6% as the government sector, which accounts for 15.5% of total state employment, grew by a moderate 0.7%. For the nation, private sector job growth was 4.4% for the 12 months ending in August with all private industries adding jobs. Overall job growth was lower, at 3.8%, as the government sector jobs grew by only 0.5%.

Jobs in August are down by 3,500 jobs or 0.3% from July in the not-seasonally-adjusted series for Austin. However, in the seasonally adjusted series, jobs are up by 1,000 or 0.1%. Seasonally adjusted jobs are up by 0.5% in Houston, 0.4% in Fort Worth, unchanged in Dallas, and down 0.2% in San Antonio. Statewide, seasonally adjusted jobs are up 16,400 or 0.1%. Nationally, seasonally adjusted jobs are up from July by 315,000 or 0.2%.

In Austin, 10 of the 11 major private industry sectors added jobs over the last 12 months, most notably leisure and hospitality (12.7% or 15,900 jobs); transportation, warehousing, and utilities (8.3% or 2,400); and professional and business services (8.1% or 19,500). Only construction and natural resources lost jobs (3.7% or 2,800 jobs).

Ten private industries in Austin have surpassed pre-pandemic employment and one has yet to regain 2020’s losses. Leisure and hospitality shed 62,200 jobs in March and April of 2020 (45% of all jobs lost). With positive growth in 22 of the last 28 months, the industry finally regained those lost jobs in April. Employment now stands at 141,000, 5.0% above February 2020. Other services is now the lone private industry that has not regained February 2020’s level of employment. Other services stands at 1,100 jobs (2.3%) below its pre-pandemic level. Other services is largely comprised of repair and maintenance; personal and laundry services; and religious, grant-making, civic, professional, and similar organizations.

Additional graphs: New/lost jobs by industry for Feb. 2020-Aug. 2022 and July-Aug. 2022 and the trend since 2000 for six large industries and six small industries

Statewide, over the last 12 months, all private industries added jobs. The two industries with the most significant growth are information (10.6%) and leisure and hospitality (10.2%). All private industries, but one, currently have more jobs now than they did in February 2020, most notably transportation, warehousing and utilities, which is up by 12.7%. Construction and natural resources has yet to regain 2020 losses, with employment 0.8% below February 2020.

Nationally, all private industries added jobs over the 12 months ending in August, led by leisure and hospitality (8.4%). Transportation, warehousing and utilities, and information are up by over 6.1% and 5.9% respectively. Relative to February 2020, nine private industries have recovered pandemic-related job losses and two have not (education and health services and other services).

Over the last 12 months, the net gain for private service-providing industries in Austin is 60,700 jobs, or 7.1%. Employment in goods-producing industries is up by 2,200 jobs or 1.6%. Statewide, private service-providing industries are up 564,700 or 6.2%, and goods-producing industries are up 132,000 or 7.3%.

Labor force, employment & unemployment

We also now have August 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 28. In July, Austin had the 16th lowest rate of unemployment among the 50 largest metros. Unemployment numbers for August show Austin’s performance relative to the state and other major Texas metros being sustained.

In August, Austin’s not-seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate is 3.0%, while the other major Texas metros range from 3.6% in Dallas to 4.6% in Houston. Fort Worth and San Antonio are both at 3.8%. Austin’s rate one year ago was 3.8%. The rates in the other major Texas metros are reduced from a year ago by 1.2 to 1.7 percentage points. The statewide rate is now 4.2%, down from 5.5% in August of last year. The national unemployment rate is 3.8%, down from 5.3% 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 2.9% in August, while Caldwell County has the highest at 3.6%. The rate is 3.0% in Williamson County, 3.1% in Hays County, and 3.5% in Bastrop County.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, Austin’s August unemployment rate is 2.8%, improved from 2.9% in July. The statewide rate is 4.1%, up from 4.0%, and the national rate is 3.7%, up from 3.5% in July.

Among Texas’ other major metros, Dallas has the next lowest seasonally adjusted August unemployment rate, 3.5%. Fort Worth is at 3.6% and San Antonio is at 3.7%, while Houston is at 4.5%. 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 estimates.)

In February 2020, before pandemic impacts, the number unemployed in Austin was 32,302. The number climbed to 130,460 in March and also exceeded 100,000 in April and May. In August 2022, unemployed stands at 40,440. That is 25.2% above the level of February 2020.

The Austin metro’s civilian labor force (employed plus unemployed) fell by 97,419 persons or 7.7% in March and April of 2020, while persons employed decreased by 195,577 or 16.0%. Labor force now stands at 7.4% above what it was in February 2020 and employed is estimated at 6.9% above. Over the last 12 months, labor force increased 2.7% and employed by 3.6%. Over the last month, labor force and employed both decreased by 0.5% and 0.4%, respectively.

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

Texas’ labor force is 472,220 or 3.4% above pre-pandemic February 2020, while employment is higher by 345,968 or 2.5%. Thus, the number of unemployed is up by 126,252 or 26.3%.

Nationally, civilian labor force and employment surpassed February 2020 for the first time in March. In August, the national labor force is currently ahead of February 2020 by 736,000 or 0.4% and employed is above by 697,000 or 0.4%. The number of unemployed in August exceeds the last pre-pandemic month by just 38,000 or 0.6%.

The Texas Workforce Commission and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics will release August estimates on October 21.

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. The Central Texas Economy in Perspective page provides an archive of past articles on the labor market and many other topics.


  1. Raleigh also made up pandemic-related job losses by May 2021. Salt Lake City did so one month earlier.

Related Categories: Central Texas Economy in Perspective