Job growth & unemployment

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Posted on 10/25/2022 by Beverly Kerr

  • Austin added 64,400 jobs, growth of 5.4%, in the 12 months ending in September, making it the tenth best performing among the top 50 metros.
  • Austin made up all of 2020’s pandemic-related job losses by May 2021 and the metro ranks first for job growth since February 2020.
  • Austin’s leisure and hospitality industry reached a new peak employment level in September of 142,800 or 11.4% of all jobs. That percentage is lower than the industry’s 12.1% pre-pandemic share.
  • Austin's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 2.8% in September, down from 2.9% in August.

Nonfarm payroll jobs

Austin’s nonfarm payroll jobs total grew to 1,247,800 in September according to Friday's releases of monthly labor market data by the Texas Workforce Commission and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In February 2020, before the impacts from COVID-19, Austin had an estimated 1,142,500 jobs. Combining job losses for March and April 2020, Austin lost 137,100 jobs, or 12.0%. By May 2021, Austin surpassed the jobs total it had in the last pre-pandemic month.[1]

As of September 2022, 34 of the top 50 metropolitan areas (68%) have regained their pre-pandemic level of jobs. Comparing metros based on where they stand relative to pre-pandemic February 2020, Austin, up 9.2%, is the best performing major metro. Dallas (8.7%) and Fort Worth (4.9%) are also in the top 10. San Antonio (3.5%) ranks 14th, while Houston (2.9%) ranks 16th. Philadelphia ranks 50th with September 2022 jobs 2.4% below February 2020.

Texas regained its pandemic-related job losses in October 2021 in the not-seasonally-adjusted series. Total nonfarm jobs are 604,000 jobs or 4.7% above February 2020. The U.S. topped its pre-pandemic jobs total for the first time in May 2022. This month, jobs nationally total 2.1 million or 1.4% above February 2020.

Austin’s year-over-year increase of 5.4%, or 64,400 jobs, makes it the tenth best performing among the 50 largest metro areas. Dallas is the fastest growing metro with 6.9% growth and Houston (6.1%) ranks fourth. Fort Worth (5.3%) and San Antonio (4.7%) rank 13th and 23rd respectively.

For the year ending in September, private sector job growth in the Austin MSA is 6.4%, or 64,300 jobs, with gains across all major private industry sectors, but one. Austin's sizable government sector (15.9% of jobs) is up by only 100 jobs or 0.1%, thus bringing the overall year-over-year job growth rate to 5.4%.

Texas saw net private sector job growth of 6.5% with all private industry sectors adding jobs over the last 12 months. Total job growth was 5.6% as the government sector, which accounts for 15.5% of total state employment, grew by only 0.5%. For the nation, private sector job growth was 4.2% for the 12 months ending in September with all private industries adding jobs. Overall job growth was lower, at 3.7%, as the government sector jobs grew by a moderate 0.7%.

Jobs in September are up by 5,200 jobs or 0.4% from August in the not-seasonally-adjusted series for Austin. In the seasonally adjusted series, jobs are up by 4,000 or 0.3%. Seasonally adjusted jobs are up by 0.6% in San Antonio, 0.4% in Dallas, and 0.3% in Houston, but down by 0.1% in Fort Worth. Statewide, seasonally adjusted jobs are up 40,000 or 0.3%. Nationally, seasonally adjusted jobs are up from August by 263,000 or 0.2%.

In Austin, 10 of the 11 major private industry sectors added jobs over the last 12 months, most notably leisure and hospitality (15.3% or 18,900 jobs); education and health services (8.2% or 11,000); professional and business services (7.0% or 17,000); and manufacturing (6.7% or 4,400). Only construction and natural resources lost jobs (2.3% or 1,700 jobs).

Ten private industries in Austin have surpassed pre-pandemic employment and one has yet to regain 2020’s losses. Leisure and hospitality shed 62,200 jobs in March and April of 2020 (45% of all jobs lost). The industry finally regained those lost jobs in April 2022. Employment attained a new peak of 142,800 in September, 6.3% above February 2020.[2] Other services is now the lone private industry that has not regained February 2020’s level of employment. Other services stands at 1,200 jobs (2.5%) below its pre-pandemic level. Other services is largely comprised of repair and maintenance; personal and laundry services; and religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations.

Additional graphs: New/lost jobs by industry for Feb. 2020-Sept. 2022 and Aug.-Sept. 2022 and the trend since 2000 for six large industries and six small industries

Statewide, over the last 12 months, all private industries added jobs. The two industries with the most significant growth are information (11.1%) and leisure and hospitality (11.7%). All private industries, but one, currently have more jobs now than they did in February 2020, most notably transportation, warehousing and utilities, which is up by 12.1%. Construction and natural resources has yet to regain 2020 losses, with employment 0.7% below February 2020.

Nationally, all private industries added jobs over the 12 months ending in September, led by leisure and hospitality (8.1%). Information and transportation, warehousing and utilities are up by 6.0% and 5.2% respectively. Relative to February 2020, nine private industries have recovered pandemic-related job losses and two, education and health services and other services, have not. (Leisure and hospitality also sits just under February 2020 employment this month, however it topped the last pre-pandemic month in each of the preceding three months.)

Over the last 12 months, the net gain for private service-providing industries in Austin is 61,600 jobs, or 7.2%. Employment in goods-producing industries is up by 2,700 jobs or 1.9%. Statewide, private service-providing industries are up 572,100 or 6.3%, and goods-producing industries are up 129,100 or 7.2%.

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 by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics until November 2. In August, Austin had the 14th 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’s not-seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate is 2.8%, while the other major Texas metros range from 3.4% in Dallas to 4.2% in Houston. Fort Worth and San Antonio are at 3.5%. Austin’s rate one year ago was 3.6%. The rates in the other major Texas metros are reduced from a year ago by 1.1 to 1.5 percentage points. The statewide rate is now 3.8%, down from 5.1% in September of last year. The national unemployment rate is 3.3%, down from 4.6% a year ago.

In 2019, the unemployment rate averaged 2.7% in Austin, 3.5% in Texas, and 3.7% nationally.

Within the Austin MSA, Travis and Williamson Counties have the lowest unemployment rates at 2.8% in September, while Bastrop and Caldwell Counties have the highest at 3.2%. The rate is 2.9% in Hays County.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, Austin’s September unemployment rate is 2.8%, improved from 2.9% in August. The statewide rate is 4.0%, improved from 4.1%, and the national rate is 3.5%, improved from 3.7% in August.

Among Texas’ other major metros, Dallas has the next lowest seasonally adjusted September unemployment rate, 3.4%. Fort Worth is at 3.5%, San Antonio is at 3.6%, while Houston is at 4.4%. Seasonally adjusted unemployment rates for Texas metros are produced by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. (The Texas Workforce Commission also produces seasonally adjusted rates for Texas metros, but publication lags the Dallas Fed’s estimates.)

In February 2020, before pandemic impacts, the number unemployed in Austin was 32,302. The number climbed to 130,460 in March and also exceeded 100,000 in April and May. In September 2022, unemployed stands at 38,033. That is 17.7% above the level of February 2020.

The Austin metro’s civilian labor force (employed plus unemployed) fell by 97,419 persons or 7.7% in March and April of 2020, while persons employed decreased by 195,577 or 16.0%. Labor force now stands at 7.8% above what it was in February 2020 and employed is estimated at 7.5% above. Over the last 12 months, labor force increased 2.8% and employed by 3.6%. Over the last month, labor force increased by 0.2% and employed by 0.4%.

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

Texas’ labor force is 469,653 or 3.3% above pre-pandemic February 2020, while employment is higher by 393,664 or 2.9%. Thus, the number of unemployed is up by 75,989 or 15.8%.

Nationally, civilian labor force and employment surpassed February 2020 for the first time in March. In September, the national labor force exceeds February 2020 by 228,000 or 0.1% and employment is up by 986,000 or 0.6%. The number of unemployed in September is below the last pre-pandemic month by 758,000 or 12.2%.

The Texas Workforce Commission and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics will release October estimates on November 18.

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. The Central Texas Economy in Perspective page provides an archive of past articles on the labor market and many other topics.


  1. Raleigh also made up pandemic-related job losses by May 2021. Salt Lake City did so one month earlier.
  2. September’s jobs represent 11.4% of all jobs, but before the pandemic, leisure and hospitality accounted for 12.1% of all jobs in Austin. It would take another 8,000 jobs for the industry to represent that share of jobs in September.

Related Categories: Central Texas Economy in Perspective