Job growth & unemployment

Sign up for the Central Texas Economy Report newsletter

For opportunities with Austin employers currently hiring, see the Chamber's Austin Job Opportunities page.

Posted on 09/22/2020 by Beverly Kerr

  • Austin added 19,800 jobs in August, narrowing pandemic-related job losses to 50,100.
  • Austin’s 2.7% year-over-year job loss is more moderate than the declines seen in all other major metros.
  • After regaining over 35,200 lost jobs in May and June, Austin’s leisure and hospitality industry lost 3,300 jobs in July, but gained 2,000 back in August, and employment stands at 76% of its pre-pandemic level.
  • After falling each of the last four months, Austin's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 5.4% in August.

Nonfarm payroll jobs

The Austin metropolitan area added 19,800 jobs in August, narrowing pandemic-related job losses to 50,100 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 August is 1,087,800. 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 since then has brought back 78,500 of those jobs.

Austin’s year-over-year decline of 2.7%, or 29,800 jobs, makes it the best performing among the 50 largest metro areas. Dallas and San Antonio also ranked in the top 10. Fort Worth’s loss of 5.1% ranks 13th and Houston’s 5.8% decline ranks 18th. The deepest loss among major metros was that of Detroit (12.4%). New York, Las Vegas and Oakland are also down by more than 12% compared to August 2019.

For the year ending in August, private sector job loss in the Austin MSA is 3.0%, or 28,500 jobs, with losses occurring in five of the 11 major private industry sectors. Austin's sizable government sector (17% of jobs) shrank more moderately, by 1,300 jobs or 0.7%, thus bringing the overall growth rate to 2.7%.

Texas saw net private sector job losses of 5.5% with all private industry sectors, but one, losing jobs over the last 12 months. Total job losses were only 4.9% as the government sector, which accounts for 15% of total state employment, had slighter losses (1.3%). For the nation, private sector losses were 7.5% for the 12 months ending in August with all private industries losing jobs. Overall job loss was 7.0% as government sector’s losses were relatively moderate (3.6%).

Jobs in August are up by 19,800 jobs or 1.9% from July in the not-seasonally-adjusted series for Austin. In the seasonally adjusted series, jobs increased by 23,300 or 2.2%. Seasonally adjusted jobs are up by 1.2% in Dallas, 1.0% in San Antonio, 0.4% in Houston, and 0.2% Fort Worth. Statewide, seasonally adjusted jobs are up 106,800 or 0.9%. Nationally, seasonally adjusted jobs are up from July by 1.37 million or 1.0%.

In Austin, six private industry sectors have positive growth over the last 12 months, most notably financial activities (13.1% or 8,800 jobs), followed by manufacturing (5.4% or 3,400) and construction and natural resources (4.0% or 2,800).

The greatest number of job losses, and greatest percent change, over the last year happened in leisure and hospitality (23.7% or 32,400 jobs). Information also saw a double-digit loss (11.9% or 4,600) and education and health services is also notably down (7.9% or 10,300).

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

Compared to our last pre-pandemic month, February, eight industries have lost jobs and four have gained. Financial activities, up 12.1%, and manufacturing, up 4.1% lead, followed by professional and business services (up 2.9%) and construction and natural resources (up 1.3%). The most notable losses over the last six months are in leisure and hospitality (24.3% or 33,400 jobs), information (12.8%), education and health services (9.4%), government (6.2%), and other services (5.5%).

Leisure and hospitality added back 33,900 jobs over the last four months, reducing what had been losses of 67,300 jobs (-48.9%) in March and April. As of August, employment stands at 104,100. The last time Austin’s leisure and hospitality industry had a similar level of employment was early 2014. Pre-pandemic, about 78% of Austin’s leisure and hospitality industry jobs are in food services and drinking places and, in August, the share is 80%. Losses since February represent 23,800 jobs (-22.3%) in food services and drinking places and 9,600 jobs (-31.2%) in accommodation and the remainder of leisure and hospitality.

Statewide, over the last 12 months, only financial activities added jobs (0.3% or 2,400). A double-digit loss prevails in leisure and hospitality (17.5% or 247,400 jobs) and construction and natural resources is down by 9.8% or 101,100 jobs. Information and other services are down by more than 6%.

Nationally, no industries added jobs and two industries lost job at double-digit rates over the 12 months ending in August: leisure and hospitality (23.2% or 4.0 million) and information (10.1% or 293,000). 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 34,700 jobs, or 4.3%. Employment in goods producing industries is up by 6,200 jobs or 4.7%. Statewide, private service-providing industries are down 463,900, or 5.2%, and goods producing industries are down 140,100, or 7.2%.

Between July and August, Austin’s private service providing industries added 16,300 jobs or 2.2% and goods producing industries added 1,400 jobs or 1.0%. Statewide, jobs increased by 78,100 or 0.9% in private service providing industries and are down by 500 or 0.0% in goods producing industries.

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 until September 30. In July, Austin had the 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 August, Austin’s unemployment rate is at 5.5%, while the other major Texas metros range from 6.2% in Dallas to 8.1% in Houston. Fort Worth is at 6.5% and San Antonio is at 6.6%. Austin’s rate one year ago was 2.8%. The rates in the other major Texas metros are elevated from a year ago by 3.1 to 4.0 percentage points. The statewide not-seasonally-adjusted rate is now 7.0%, up from 3.7% in August of last year. The national unemployment rate is 8.5%, up from 3.8% a year ago.

Within the Austin MSA, Williamson County has the lowest unemployment rate at 5.1% in August, while Caldwell County has the highest at 5.7%. The rate is 5.3% in Bastrop County and 5.6% in Hays and Travis Counties.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, Austin’s August unemployment rate is 5.4%, down from 6.0% in July. The statewide rate is 6.8%, down from 8.0%, and the national rate is 8.4%, down from 10.2% in July.

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 rates, at 6.1% and 6.2% respectively, in August, while San Antonio is at 6.4% and Houston’s rate is 7.7%. 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 August, the estimate of unemployed improves to 70,089, which is 100% 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 largely regained these losses over the last four months so that August’s labor force stands at 1.1% above what it was in February and employed is now estimated at 1.8% below. Compared to one year ago, labor force is 3.5% higher and employed is 0.7% higher.

Labor force and employment also grew over the last four months for Texas and the nation following March and April losses. However, for the nation, most of July’s 0.3% labor force growth was countered by a 0.3% decline in August.

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

Texas’ employment is 177,384 or 1.3% below last August, while labor force is higher by 295,432 or 2.1%. Thus, the number of unemployed increased by 472,816 or 90%. Nationally, August civilian labor force is down by 3.1 million or 1.9% year-over-year, while employed is below the level seen in August 2019 by 10.6 million or 6.7%, and 7.5 million more people (122%) are unemployed.

The TWC and the BLS will release September estimates on October 16.

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