Job growth & unemployment

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Posted on 09/21/2021 by Beverly Kerr

  • Adding jobs in 15 of the last 16 months, Austin has made up all of spring 2020’s pandemic-related job losses.
  • Austin ranks as the 4th best performing major job market over the last 12 months and since the beginning of the pandemic.
  • After a robust addition of 5,600 jobs in July, Austin’s leisure and hospitality industry shed 5,800 jobs in August.
  • Austin's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate decreased from 4.0% in July to 3.8% in August.

Nonfarm payroll jobs

Austin’s nonfarm payroll jobs total as of August is 1,142,500 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 2020, Austin lost 137,000 jobs, or 12.0%. In August, Austin surpasses the jobs total it had in the last pre-pandemic month. This is not to say that Austin has regained the jobs that were lost—growth has been driven by seven industries which, in aggregate, have added 37,000 jobs, while five industries have 36,900 jobs fewer than they had in February 2020.

Last month, Salt Lake City was the only major metro surpassing the number of jobs it had pre-pandemic. This month, Austin, along with Dallas and Kansas City, have turned positive as well. Comparing metros based on where they stand compared to pre-pandemic February 2020, Dallas and Austin are the third and fourth best performing major metros. San Antonio (-1.4%) ranks 11th, Fort Worth (-2.3%) ranks 15th and Houston (-4.4%) ranks 28th. Philadelphia ranks 50th with August 2021 jobs 9.7% below February 2020.

Austin’s year-over-year increase of 6.7%, or 72,100 jobs, makes it the fourth best performing among the 50 largest metro areas. Dallas is also in the top 10. San Antonio, up 4.9%, Houston, up 4.8%, rank 21st and 22nd, while Fort Worth ranks 42nd with growth of 4.3% since August 2020.

For the year ending in August, private sector job growth in the Austin MSA is 8.4%, or 74,400 jobs, with gains across all major private industry sectors. Austin's sizable government sector (17% of jobs) is down by 1.3% (2,300 jobs), thus bringing the overall year-over-year job growth rate to 6.7%.

Texas saw net private sector job growth of 6.7% 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% of total state employment, was essentially unchanged. For the nation, private sector job growth was 5.2% for the 12 months ending in August with all private industries adding jobs. Overall job growth was lower, at 4.4%, as government sector jobs fell by 0.2%.

Jobs in August are up by 1,400 jobs or 0.1% from July in the not-seasonally-adjusted series for Austin. In the seasonally adjusted series, jobs increased by 3,500 or 0.3%. Seasonally adjusted jobs are up by 1.0% in Fort Worth, 0.5% in Houston, and 0.4% in Dallas, but down by 0.1% in San Antonio. Statewide, seasonally adjusted jobs are up 39,300 or 0.3%. Nationally, seasonally adjusted jobs are up from July by 235,000 or 0.2%.

In Austin, all private industry sectors added jobs over the last 12 months, most notably leisure and hospitality (22.4% or 22,000 jobs) and professional and business services (12.2% or 24,400). Wholesale trade and transportation, warehousing and utilities each grew by 10.0% (adding 5,300 and 2,600 jobs respectively). The slowest growing industry, based on percent change from August 2020, is construction and natural resources, which is up 2.2%.

Seven 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 16 months, the industry has regained 47,300 of those jobs (35% of all jobs added over the 16 months). As of August, 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 (below by 4.7%) and other services (below by 8.6%). Manufacturing is currently 100 jobs below February 2020, but has also been above in recent months.

Additional graphs: New/lost jobs by industry, July-Aug. 2021 and 2000-21 trend for six large industries and six small industries

Statewide, over the last 12 months, all private industries added jobs. As in Austin, the two industries with the most significant growth are leisure and hospitality (15.6%) and professional and business services (9.9%). Only five industries currently have more jobs now than they did in February 2020, notably transportation, warehousing and utilities, which is up by 7.6%. 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 August, led by leisure and hospitality (17.5%); other services (6.7%); and transportation, warehousing and utilities (6.2%). Relative to February 2020, only construction and natural resources, financial activities, and professional and business services have recovered pandemic-related job losses.

Over the last 12 months, the net gain for private service-providing industries in Austin is 71,300 jobs, or 9.4%. Employment in goods producing industries is up by 3,100 jobs or 2.4%. Statewide, private service-providing industries are up 622,000 or 7.4%, and goods producing industries are up 58,500 or 3.4%.

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 29. In July, Austin had the eighth lowest rate of unemployment among the 50 largest metros. Across Texas’ major metros, seasonally adjusted August rates are below July by 0.2 to 0.5 percentage points.

In August, Austin’s not-seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate has fallen to 3.8%, while the other major Texas metros range from 4.6% in Dallas to 6.1% in Houston. San Antonio and Fort Worth are at 4.8% and 4.9%, respectively. Austin’s rate one year ago was 5.5%. The rates in the other major Texas metros are reduced from a year ago by 1.5 to 2.0 percentage points. The statewide rate is now 5.3%, down from 6.9% in August of last year. The national unemployment rate is also 5.3%, down from 8.5% 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 3.7% in August, while Caldwell County has the highest at 4.6%. The rate is 3.8% in Williamson County, 3.9% in Hays County, and 4.2% in Bastrop County.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, Austin’s August unemployment rate is also 3.8%, down from 4.0% in July. The statewide rate is 5.9%, down from 6.2%, and the national rate is 5.2%, down from 5.4% in July.

Among Texas’ other major metros, Dallas has the next lowest seasonally adjusted unemployment rate, 4.6%, in August, while Fort Worth and San Antonio are at 4.8%, and Houston’s rate is 6.0%. 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 August 2021, unemployed stands at 48,709, 46% 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 1.4% above what it was in February 2020 and employed is estimated at 0.2% above. Over the last month, labor force grew 0.1% and employed by 0.5%.

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

Texas’ labor force is 70,282 or 0.5% below pre-pandemic February 2020, while employment is lower by 327,845 or 2.4%. Thus, the number of unemployed is up by 257,563 or 51%. Nationally, August 2021 civilian labor force is down by 2.4 million or 1.5% from February 2020, while employed is below the level seen in February 2020 by 4.8 million or 3.0%, and 2.3 million more people (38%) are unemployed.

The Texas Workforce Commission and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics will release September estimates on October 22.

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