Job growth & unemployment

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Posted on 10/20/2020 by Beverly Kerr

  • Austin added 4,300 jobs in September, narrowing pandemic-related job losses to 47,600.
  • Austin’s 2.5% year-over-year job loss is more moderate than the declines seen in all other major metros.
  • Austin’s leisure and hospitality industry added jobs in three of the last five months. Half of the 67,300 jobs lost in March and April have been regained.
  • After falling each of the preceding four months, Austin's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased from 5.3% in August to 6.7% in September.

Nonfarm payroll jobs

The Austin metropolitan area added 4,300 jobs in September, narrowing pandemic-related job losses to 47,600 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 September is 1,090,300. 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 81,000 of those jobs.

Austin’s year-over-year decline of 2.5%, or 27,800 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 5.0% ranks 14th and Houston’s 5.1% decline ranks 15th. The deepest loss among major metros was that of Las Vegas (12.3%). New York, Oakland, and Detroit are also down by more than 11% compared to September 2019.

For the year ending in September, private sector job loss in the Austin MSA is 2.6%, or 24,100 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 2.0% (3,700 jobs), thus bringing the overall job loss rate to 2.5%.

Texas saw net private sector job losses of 5.2% with all private industry sectors losing jobs over the last 12 months. Total job losses were only 4.5% as the government sector, which accounts for 15% of total state employment, had slighter losses (0.9%). For the nation, private sector losses were 6.9% for the 12 months ending in September with all private industries losing jobs. Overall job loss was 6.4% as government sector’s losses were relatively moderate (3.7%).

Jobs in September are up by 4,300 jobs or 0.4% from August in the not-seasonally-adjusted series for Austin. In the seasonally adjusted series, jobs increased by 1,300 or 0.1%. Seasonally adjusted jobs are up by 0.7% in Houston, 0.4% in Dallas, and 0.3% Fort Worth, but down 0.2% in San Antonio. Statewide, seasonally adjusted jobs are up 40,700 or 0.3%. Nationally, seasonally adjusted jobs are up from August by 661,000 or 0.5%.

In Austin, six private industry sectors have positive growth over the last 12 months, most notably financial activities (12.4% or 8,300 jobs), followed by professional and business services (4.8% or 9,700) and manufacturing (3.8% or 2,400).

The greatest number of job losses, and greatest percent change, over the last year happened in leisure and hospitality (23.4% or 31,800 jobs). Information also saw a double-digit loss (11.4% or 4,400) and education and health services is also notably down (6.5% or 8,400).

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

Compared to our last pre-pandemic month, February, eight industries have lost jobs, one is unchanged, and three have gained. Financial activities, up 11.1%, and professional and business services, up 4.2%, lead; followed by manufacturing, up 1.4%. The most notable losses over the last seven months are in leisure and hospitality (24.4% or 33,500 jobs), information (12.5%), education and health services (8.3%), government (4.8%), and other services (3.5%).

Leisure and hospitality added back 33,800 jobs over the last five months, reducing what had been losses of 67,300 jobs (-48.9%) in March and April. As of September, employment stands at 104,000. 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 were in food services and drinking places and, in September, the share is 82%. Losses since February represent 21,900 jobs (-20.5%) in food services and drinking places and 11,600 jobs (-37.7%) in accommodation and the remainder of leisure and hospitality.

Statewide, over the last 12 months, no industries added jobs. A double-digit loss prevails in leisure and hospitality (16.4% or 229,900 jobs) and construction and natural resources is down by 8.9% or 91,200 jobs. Wholesale trade and other services are both down by more than 6%.

Nationally, no industries added jobs over the 12 months ending in September. The largest percent change occurred in leisure and hospitality (21.7% or 3.6 million jobs), followed by information (8.8%), and other services (7.8%). Financial activities is the best recovered industry with jobs only 1.1% lower than they were a year ago.

Over the last 12 months, the net loss for private service-providing industries in Austin is 27,300 jobs, or 3.4%. Employment in goods producing industries is up by 3,200 jobs or 2.4%. Statewide, private service-providing industries are down 435,400, or 4.9%, and goods producing industries are down 128,500, or 6.6%.

Between August and September, Austin’s private service providing industries added 4,500 jobs or 0.6% and goods producing industries lost 2,900 jobs or 2.1%. Statewide, jobs increased by 2,400 or 0.1% in goods producing industries and are down by 12,500 or 0.1% in private service providing industries.

Labor force, employment & unemployment

We also now have September 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 October 28. In August, Austin had the lowest rate of unemployment among the 50 largest metros. Across Texas’ major metros, seasonally adjusted September rates are higher than August by between 1.4 (Austin) and 2.0 (Houston) percentage points.

In September, Austin’s not-seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate is at 6.4%, while the other major Texas metros range from 7.4% in Dallas to 9.6% in Houston. Fort Worth is at 7.6% and San Antonio is at 7.8%. Austin’s rate one year ago was 2.6%. The rates in the other major Texas metros are elevated from a year ago by 4.2 to 5.9 percentage points. The statewide rate is now 8.3%, up from 3.4% in September of last year. The national unemployment rate is 7.7%, up from 3.3% a year ago.

Within the Austin MSA, Williamson County has the lowest unemployment rate at 6.0% in September, while Caldwell and Travis Counties have the highest at 6.6%. The rate is 6.3% in Bastrop County and 6.5% in Hays County.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, Austin’s September unemployment rate is 6.7%, up from 5.3% in August. The statewide rate is 8.3%, up from 6.8%, and the national rate is 7.9%, down from 8.4% in August.

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 7.7% and 7.8% respectively, in September, while San Antonio is at 8.1% and Houston’s rate is 9.6%. 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. By August, the number fell to 70,449, but increased to 80,838 in September. That level is 146% 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 following four months, however growth from August to September was negative for both labor force and employed. Labor force now stands at 0.3% below what it was in February and employed is now estimated at 4.2% below. Compared to one year ago, labor force is 1.3% higher and employed is 2.6% lower.

Labor force and employment also fell for Texas in September after growing each of the preceding last four months.

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

Texas’ employment is 597,693 or 4.4% below last September, while labor force is higher by 97,071 or 0.7%. Thus, the number of unemployed increased by 694,764 or 144%. Nationally, September civilian labor force is down by 3.9 million or 2.4% year-over-year, while employed is below the level seen in September 2019 by 10.7 million or 6.7%, and 6.8 million more people (125%) are unemployed.

The TWC and the BLS will release October estimates on November 20.

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