City of Austin Skyline

September 27, 2016 - Job Growth & Unemployment

Posted By Beverly Kerr | Sep 27, 2016
Central Texas Economy in Perspective Print Article City of Austin Skyline
  • Austin added 30,900 net new jobs, growth of 3.2%, in the 12 months ending in August, making Austin the tenth fastest growing major metro.
  • Professional and business services added the most jobs (6,800 or 4.2%) in the past year, however, the fastest growing industries are construction and natural resources (12.3%) and wholesale trade (7.6%).
  • Austin's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 3.5%, up from 3.1% in July.

The Austin metropolitan area added 30,900 net new jobs, or 3.2%, in the 12 months ending in August, according to the recent release of preliminary payroll jobs numbers by the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Austin’s 3.2% growth makes it the tenth best performing among the 50 largest metro areas. Orlando and Fort Lauderdale, both growing by 4.4%, topped the ranking. Dallas, at 4.2%, was the third fastest growing job market. The other three major Texas metros missed the top 10. San Antonio grew by 1.8% (32nd), Fort Worth grew by 1.7% (38th), and Houston grew by 0.5% (48th) between August 2015 and August 2016.

For the year ending in August, private sector job growth in the Austin MSA is 3.6%, or 28,300 jobs, and with all private industry divisions, except manufacturing, contributing to the growth. Austin's sizable government sector (nearly 18% of jobs) saw modest growth over the last 12 months, gaining 2,600 jobs or 1.6%, thus bringing the overall job growth rate to 3.2%.

Texas saw weaker net private sector job growth of 1.5% with eight of eleven private industry divisions adding jobs over the last 12 months. The government sector, which accounts for over 16% of total state employment, grew faster, 2.3%. Overall job growth was 1.6%. For the nation, private sector growth is 1.9% for the 12 months ending in August, with all private industries, but manufacturing, adding jobs. Overall job growth is a more modest 1.7% because the government sector gained only 0.9%.

Jobs in August are down from July by 4,700 jobs or 0.5% in the not-seasonally-adjusted series for Austin. Job change from July to August is similar in the seasonally adjusted series—jobs are down by 4,600 or 0.5%. Seasonally adjusted jobs are up 0.5% in Dallas, 0.4% in Fort Worth, and 0.2% in Houston. Jobs fell by 400 (0.0%) in San Antonio. Statewide, seasonally adjusted jobs are up 21,400 or 0.2% in August. Nationally, seasonally adjusted jobs are up 0.1%.

In Austin, the industry adding the most jobs over the last 12 months is professional and business services which grew by 6,800 jobs, or 4.2%. Construction and natural resources grew fastest at 12.3% (6,900 jobs), followed by wholesale trade at 7.6% (3,700). Also growing at a faster-than-average rate is leisure and hospitality (3.8% or 4,400 jobs). Manufacturing lost 5.3% or 3,100 jobs.

Statewide, leisure and hospitality grew fastest, 4.2%, and added 52,800 jobs. Education and health services added the most jobs, 54,300 jobs and grew 3.4%. The other relatively fast growing private industries include financial activities (3.5%), wholesale trade (2.3%), retail trade (2.0%), and professional and business services (1.9%). Jobs in construction and natural resources lost 30,100 jobs, or 3.1%, and manufacturing declined by 29,100, or 3.3%. Transportation, warehousing and utilities jobs declined 1.0% over the last 12 months.

Nationally, education and health services grew fastest, adding 2.8% over the 12 months ending in August. The other industries growing at faster-than-average rates were leisure and hospitality (2.7%), professional and business services (2.7%), and financial activities (2.1%). Manufacturing jobs declined by 0.3%.

The net gain for private service-providing industries in Austin is 24,500 jobs, or 3.6%, over the last 12 months. Employment in goods producing industries is up by 3,800 jobs or 3.3%. Statewide, private service-providing industries are up 205,500 or 2.5%, but goods producing industries are down 59,200 jobs or 3.2%.

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 28. In July, Austin had the fifth 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 3.5%, while the other major metros range from 4.0% in Dallas to 5.8% in Houston. San Antonio is at 4.1% and Fort Worth is at 4.3%. Dallas and Fort Worth rates are unchanged from a year ago. Austin’s rate was 3.4% a year ago. Houston and San Antonio also had lower rates in August of last year (4.9% and 3.9% respectively).

For the past two months Texas and the nation have shared the same not-seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate, 5.0% this month and 5.1% last month. Texas’ rate is up from 4.6% in August 2015, while the U.S. is improved from 5.2%. The last time Texas’ unemployment rate was at or above the national rate was in November 2006.

In 2007, before the impact of the Great Recession, unemployment averaged 3.6% in Austin, 4.3% in Texas, and 4.6% nationally. Unemployment has been at or below pre-recession levels for 19 months in Austin. Texas’ year-to-date average (4.6%) is above what it averaged in 2007 (4.3%). The nation, with unemployment averaging 5.0% in 2016, has yet to regain its pre-recession level of unemployment.

Within the Austin MSA, Travis County has the lowest unemployment rate in August, at 3.4%, while Caldwell County has the highest at 4.6%. The rate is 3.6% in Williamson County, 3.7% in Hays County, and 4.1% in Bastrop County.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, Austin’s August unemployment rate is 3.5%, up from 3.1% in July. The statewide rate is 4.7%, up from 4.6% in July. Nationally, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 4.9%, unchanged from July.

Among Texas’ major metros, Fort Worth has the next lowest seasonally adjusted rate at 3.7%, while San Antonio, Dallas, and Houston are at 4.0%, 4.6%, and 4.9% respectively. As with Austin, August rates are up in all four of Texas’ major metros.  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.)

With Austin’s unemployment rate slightly above the rate one year ago, the number of unemployed is up by 2,471 or 6.8%. In August 2016, Austin’s number of unemployed is 38,704, up from 36,233 a year ago. The number of unemployed in Austin 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 3.5% or 37,734 persons from one year ago, while persons employed increased by 3.4% or 35,263. Texas saw 2.5% growth in labor force and 2.1% in employed, while the number unemployed increased by 11.5% or 69,184. Nationally, August civilian labor force is up by 1.5%, while employed is above the level of a year ago by 1.7%, and 166,000 fewer people (2.0%) are unemployed.

Texas Workforce Commission will release September 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.

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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.