Austin Chamber

September 22, 2015 – Job Growth & Unemployment

Posted By Beverly Kerr | Sep 22, 2015
Central Texas Economy in Perspective Print Article Austin Chamber
  • Austin added 31,100 net new jobs, or 3.4%, in the 12 months ending in August, making it the eleventh fastest growing major metro.

  • Seasonally adjusted job growth from July to August is up 0.1% in Austin, while down 0.1% statewide.

  • The Dallas Fed has revised its 2015 job growth forecast for Texas downward from 1.3% to 1.0%.

  • The number of unemployed in Austin has declined by 12,068 or 26.2% in the last 12 months.

  • At 3.1%, Austin's seasonally adjusted unemployment is improved from 3.2% in July, and is at its lowest level since before the early 2000s "dot-com" recession.

The Austin metropolitan area added 31,100 jobs, or 3.4%, in the 12 months ending in August, according to Friday’s release of payroll jobs numbers by the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Austin’s 3.4% growth makes it the eleventh best performing among the 50 largest metro areas. Dallas grew by 3.7%, ranking sixth. The other major Texas metros missed the top 10. San Antonio grew by 3.1% (14th), Fort Worth grew by 1.9% (36th), and Houston grew by 1.3% (40th) between August 2014 and August 2015.

For the year ending in August, private sector job growth in the Austin MSA is 3.9%, or 29,200 jobs, and with all private industry divisions, except manufacturing, contributing to the growth. Austin's sizable government sector (nearly 19% of jobs) saw modest growth over the last 12 months, gaining only 1,900 jobs or 1.2%, thus bringing the overall job growth rate to 3.4%.

Texas saw weaker net private sector job growth of 2.0% with all private industries, except manufacturing and construction and natural resources, adding jobs over the last 12 months. As with Austin, total job growth statewide is lower, 1.8%, due to the only moderate growth (1.0%) in the government sector, which accounts for over 16% of total state employment. For the nation, private sector growth is 2.3% for the 12 months ending in August, with all private industries adding jobs. Overall job growth is a more modest 2.1% because the government sector gained only 0.6%.

Jobs in August are up from the preceding month by 1,200 jobs or 0.1% in the not-seasonally-adjusted series for Austin, while on a seasonally adjusted basis, jobs are up by 900 or 0.1%. Statewide, seasonally adjusted jobs are down 13,700 or 0.1%. On a seasonally adjusted basis, jobs are up 0.2% in Dallas and 0.1% in San Antonio. Jobs declined in Fort Worth and Houston, by 0.4% and 0.1% respectively. Nationally, seasonally adjusted jobs rose 0.1% in August.

Friday also saw the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas release a revision to their 2015 employment forecast for the state. The revision, downward from 1.3% to 1.0% for the year ending December 2015, reflects performance through August in Texas nonfarm jobs and the Dallas Fed’s Texas Leading Index data. These indicators suggest that job growth will be weak in the final months of the year and the state will therefore see net job growth of 116,300 for the year and a total of 11,900,000 jobs statewide in December. The Leading Index is made up of eight variables, but oil prices, the value of the dollar, and stock prices of Texas-based companies account for 90% of the index’s decline in August. A gain in jobs of only 1.0% would be a sharp drop from last year’s 3.6% rate.

In Austin, the industry adding the most jobs and growing fastest is professional and business services which grew by 10,100 jobs or 6.7%, over the last 12 months. Also growing at faster-than-average rates are leisure and hospitality (5.8% or 6,300 jobs); education and health services (5.1% or 5,400 jobs), and financial activities (4.2% or 2,200 jobs). The manufacturing sector lost 200 jobs or 0.3%.

Statewide, leisure and hospitality grew fastest and added the most jobs, 5.8% or 70,400 jobs. The other relatively fast growing industries were education and health services (up 3.8%); professional and business services (2.7%); retail trade (2.3%); and wholesale trade (2.0%). Manufacturing declined by 29,800 jobs (-3.3%) and construction and natural resources declined by 10,800 jobs (-1.1%).

Nationally, professional and business services grew fastest and added the most jobs (3.4% or 652,000 jobs) over the 12 months ending in August. Leisure and hospitality (3.0%); transportation, warehousing and utilities (2.8%); and education and health services (2.8%) also grew at faster-than-average rates. No industry lost jobs. In contrast to Austin and Texas, manufacturing grew by 0.9%.

The net gain for private service-providing industries in Austin is 29,300 jobs, or 4.6%, over the last 12 months. Employment in goods producing industries is down by 100 jobs or 0.1%. Statewide, private service-providing industries are up 234,800 or 3.0% but goods producing industries are down 40,600 jobs or -2.2%.

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 that we often do a ranking of will not be released until, September 30. In July, Austin had the 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 is at 3.2%, while the other major metros range from 3.7% in San Antonio to 4.6% in Houston. Dallas and Fort Worth are at 3.8% and 4.1% respectively. Austin’s rate one year ago was 4.4%. The rates in Texas’ other major metros are 0.5 (Houston) to 1.4 (Dallas) percentage points improved on the rates seen a year ago. The statewide not-seasonally-adjusted rate is now 4.4%, compared to 5.3% in August of last year. The August national rate is 5.2% compared to 6.3% in August of last year.

In 2007, before the impact of the Great Recession, unemployment averaged 3.6% in Austin, 4.3% in Texas, and 4.6% nationally. Based on average rates for the first eight months of 2015, unemployment is lower in Austin (3.3%) than before the recession. Texas’ unemployment is the same as it averaged in 2007, while the nation, with unemployment averaging 5.5%, still has ground to make up.

Within the Austin MSA, Travis County has the lowest unemployment rate in August, at 3.1%, while Caldwell County has the highest at 4.1%. The rate is 3.3% in Williamson and Hays Counties and 3.8% in Bastrop County.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, Austin’s August unemployment rate is 3.1%, down from 3.2% in July. Austin has not seen unemployment this low since January 2001, before the “dot-com” recession. The statewide rate is 4.1%, improved from 4.2% in July. The last time Texas’ rate was as low as 4.1% was in January of 2001. Nationally, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 5.1%, improved from 5.3% in July. The national rate has yet to fall to the level it averaged (4.6%) through 2006 and 2007 before the impact of the Great Recession.

San Antonio has the next lowest seasonally adjusted rate at 3.5%, while Dallas, Fort Worth, and Houston are at 3.7%, 3.8% and 4.2% respectively. August rates are down from July in Austin and Fort Worth (by 0.1) and unchanged in the other major metros. Seasonally adjusted unemployment rates for Texas metros are produced by the Dallas Fed. (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 declined. In August 2014, Austin’s number of unemployed was 46,142, and has decreased by 12,068 or 26.2%, to 34,074. Unemployment averaged more than 60,000 for three years running during the Great Recession.

The Austin metro’s civilian labor force (employed plus unemployed) has increased by 0.4% or 4,207 persons from one year age, while persons employed increased by 1.6% or 16,275. Texas saw positive growth in employed (0.5%) while labor force declined by 0.5%, and 123,910 fewer people (17.9%) are unemployed. Nationally, August civilian labor force is up by 0.6%, while employed is above the level of a year ago by 1.8%, and over 1.6 million fewer people (16.6%) are unemployed.

Texas Workforce Commission will release September estimates on October 16.

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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.

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Beverly Kerr

Vice President of Research, Beverly Kerr, joined the Chamber’s Economic Development Department in 2004, following 10 years in a similar role with the Kansas City Area Development Council. Beverly earned an M.A. in economics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.