Job Growth & Unemployment

Posted on 10/23/2018 by Beverly Kerr

  • Austin added 40,000 net new jobs, growth of 3.9%, in the 12 months ending in September, making Austin the 7th fastest growing major metro.
  • Wholesale trade was the fastest growing industry in the Austin MSA, increasing jobs by 12.9% (6,700 jobs) over the last 12 months. Professional and business services added the most jobs—11,200 (6.3% growth).
  • Austin's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 2.9%, unchanged from August.

The Austin metropolitan area added 40,000 net new jobs, or 3.9%, in the 12 months ending in September, according to Friday's releases of preliminary payroll jobs numbers by the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Austin’s 3.9% growth makes it the seventh best performing among the 50 largest metro areas. Houston, up 4.3%, also made the top ten. Dallas (up 3.3%), Fort Worth (up 2.3%), and San Antonio (up 0.9%) ranked 11th, 20th, and 39th respectively.

For the year ending in September, private sector growth in the Austin MSA is 4.4%, or 37,400 jobs, with all but two private industry divisions, manufacturing and education and health services, adding jobs. Austin's sizable government sector (over 17% of jobs) added 2,600 jobs or 1.5%, thus bringing the overall growth rate to 3.9%.[1]

Texas saw net private sector job growth of 3.9% with all private industries, except information, adding jobs over the last 12 months. Total job growth was 3.3% as the government sector, which accounts for 16% of total state employment, was up by only 0.3%. For the nation, private sector growth is 2.0% for the 12 months ending in September with all private industries, except information, adding jobs. Overall job growth is a more modest 1.7% because of minor (0.5%) government sector growth.

Jobs in September are up from the preceding month by 8,200 jobs or 0.8% in the not-seasonally-adjusted series for Austin. In the seasonally adjusted series, jobs grew from August to September by 4,800 jobs or 0.4%. Seasonally adjusted jobs are up by 0.2% in Houston, Dallas, and Fort Worth, and 0.1% in San Antonio. Statewide, seasonally adjusted jobs are up 15,600 or 0.1%. Nationally, seasonally adjusted jobs are up 0.1% from August.

In Austin, the industry adding the most jobs is professional and business services which grew by 11,200 jobs (6.3%) over the last 12 months. The fastest growing industry is wholesale trade, which grew by 12.9% (6,700 jobs). Also growing at faster-than-average rates are construction and natural resources (10.0% or 6,200 jobs); other services (6.1% or 2,700 jobs); and leisure and hospitality (5.5% or 7,000 jobs). Manufacturing jobs fell by 1.2% or 700 jobs and education and health services declined by 0.9% or 1,100 jobs. Click here for graphs of the 2012-2018 growth rate trends for the major industry groups.

Statewide, construction and natural resources grew fastest (9.8%) and added the most jobs (92,200) over the last 12 months. The other relatively fast growing industries were professional and business services (up 4.8%); wholesale trade (up 4.4%); and transportation, warehousing and utilities (4.2%). Jobs declined in information by 2.5%.

Nationally, construction and natural resources grew fastest, adding 4.6% over the 12 months ending in September. Transportation, warehousing, and utilities (3.0%); professional and business services (2.8%); and manufacturing (2.2%) were also relatively fast growing. Information jobs fell by 0.5%.

The net gain for private service-providing industries in Austin is 31,900 jobs, or 4.3%, over the last 12 months. Employment in goods producing industries is up by 5,500 jobs or 4.6%. Statewide, private service-providing industries are up 277,300, or 3.3%, and goods producing industries are up 119,500 jobs, or 6.6%.

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 November 6. In August, Austin had the sixth lowest rate of unemployment among the 50 largest metros.

Unemployment numbers for September show Austin’s performance relative to the state and other major Texas metros being sustained. In September, Austin is at 2.9%, while the other major metros range from 3.3% in San Antonio to 4.1% in Houston. Dallas and San Antonio are at 3.4%. Austin’s rate one year ago was 2.9%. The rates in Dallas and Fort Worth are also unchanged from a year ago, while Houston’s rate has improved from 4.8% and San Antonio’s is up from 3.2%. The statewide not-seasonally-adjusted rate is now 3.7%, down from 4.0% in September of last year. The national unemployment rate is 3.6%, improved from 4.1% in September 2017.

Within the Austin MSA, Travis County has the lowest unemployment rate in September, at 2.8%, while Caldwell County has the highest at 3.6%. The rate is 3.0% in Hays and Williamson Counties and 3.2% in Bastrop County.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, Austin’s September unemployment rate is 2.9%, unchanged from August. The statewide seasonally adjusted rate is 3.8% in September, down from 3.9%, while the national rate is 3.7%, improved from 3.9% in August.

Among Texas’ major metros, San Antonio has the next lowest seasonally adjusted rate at 3.3%, Dallas and Fort Worth are at 3.4%, and Houston is at 4.1%. September rates are unchanged from August in each metro, with the exception of Houston which improves on the previous month. 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 unchanged from one year ago, the number unemployed has increased. In September 2017, Austin’s number of unemployed was 33,831. Over the last 12 months, the unemployed have increased by 739, or 2.2%, to 34,570.

The Austin metro’s civilian labor force (employed plus unemployed) has increased by 2.5% or 28,536 persons from one year ago, while persons employed increased by 2.5% or 27,797. Texas has seen greater growth in employed (1.6%) than labor force (1.3%), and the number unemployed decreased by 32,244 or 5.9%. Nationally, September civilian labor force is up by 0.6%, while employed is above the level of a year ago by 1.1%, and 790,000 fewer people (12.1%) are unemployed. Click here for graphs of the 2012-2018 growth rate trends for labor force and employment.

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


With the September estimate, Austin’s government sector is seeing the first instance of positive year-over-year growth since August 2017. You may recall that Austin dropped just outside the top ten in the job growth ranking in our article about this data a couple of months ago. Since Austin was sustaining relatively strong private sector growth, we took a closer look at the government jobs series which had been presenting negative year-over-year growth since last fall, after running consistently positive for the preceding five years.

Separate series for local, state and federal government employment are published for the Austin MSA. In examining these, it turns out that there has been a notable fall off in state government jobs (while federal and local government job growth has been positive). In 2017, jobs fell into a customary seasonal July-August trough, but instead of promptly rebounding, state government employment continued to hold at that level. This year, state government shed another 6,400 jobs in Austin in June, July, and August, falling to 64,800 in August. This was the lowest state employment figure for the Austin MSA since September of 2006. Unlike 2017, September 2018 is indicating the seasonal state jobs rebound, restoring 6,100 of the 6,400 jobs lost over the summer.

For Texas, state government detail is published for educational services (this subtotal is not reported for the Austin MSA by the CES survey). Statewide, government educational services growth has been positive, while year-over-year job growth has been negative for other state government functions since May 2017. This circumstance might point to the state government hiring freeze that was in effect from January through September of 2017 as potentially relevant to what has happened to state jobs. According to press reporting, while public universities were included in the freeze, positions not funded by state appropriations were exempt and only about 30% of money going to Texas’ public universities is state funding.

Therefore, state agency offices, rather than the metro’s state universities, may be where many of Austin’s state government jobs were shed from. Although the hiring freeze has ended, the state is in the challenging position of filling job openings while local private sector industries are expanding and unemployment is low. Click here for several graphs illustrating state government employment.


Related Categories: Central Texas Economy in Perspective