Job growth & unemployment

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Posted on 10/26/2021 by Beverly Kerr

  • Austin has made up all of 2020’s pandemic-related job losses and currently has nearly 17,000 more jobs than it had in February 2020.
  • Austin ranks as the 2nd best performing major job market over the last 12 months and since the beginning of the pandemic.
  • Austin’s leisure and hospitality industry added 3,700 jobs in September, falling short of regaining the 4,300 jobs lost in August.
  • Austin's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 3.7% in September, unchanged from August.

Nonfarm payroll jobs

Austin’s nonfarm payroll jobs total as of September is 1,159,100 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 1,142,400 jobs. Combining job losses for March and April 2020, Austin lost 137,000 jobs, or 12.0%. In August, Austin surpassed the jobs total it had in the last pre-pandemic month and added an outstanding 12,900 jobs in September. This is not to say that Austin has regained the jobs that were lost. Growth has been driven by eight industries which, in aggregate, have added 39,100 jobs, while four industries have 22,400 jobs fewer than they had in February 2020.

Last month, Austin and three other major metros had surpassed the number of jobs they had pre-pandemic. This month, six of the top 50 metros have regained their pre-pandemic level of jobs. Comparing metros based on where they stand compared to pre-pandemic February 2020, Austin, up 1.5%, is the second best performing major metro. Dallas, San Antonio, and Fort Worth are also in the top 10. Houston (-3.6%) ranks 25th. New York ranks 50th with September 2021 jobs 8.5% below February 2020.

Texas is 90,200 jobs or 0.7% below February 2020 and the U.S. is nearly 3.3 million jobs or 2.2% below. The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas is forecasting that Texas will reach employment of 13 million by December, which means Texas could regain its pandemic-related job losses this year.

Austin’s year-over-year increase of 7.4%, or 79,700 jobs, makes it the second best performing among the 50 largest metro areas. Fort Worth (5.5%), Dallas (5.4%), San Antonio (5.2%), and Houston (5.1%) rank 13th, 14th, 15th, and 16th , respectively.

For the year ending in September, private sector job growth in the Austin MSA is 8.9%, or 79,200 jobs, with gains across all major private industry sectors. Austin's sizable government sector (17% of jobs) is up by only 0.3% (500 jobs), thus bringing the overall year-over-year job growth rate to 7.4%.

Texas saw net private sector job growth of 6.9% with all private industry sectors adding jobs over the last 12 months. Total job growth was 6.0% as the government sector, which accounts for 15% of total state employment, grew by a moderate 1.0%. For the nation, private sector job growth was 4.7% for the 12 months ending in September with all private industries adding jobs. Overall job growth was lower, at 4.0%, as government sector jobs grew by only 0.5%.

Jobs in September are up by 12,900 jobs or 1.1% from August in the not-seasonally-adjusted series for Austin. In the seasonally adjusted series, jobs increased by 11,900 or 1.0%. Seasonally adjusted jobs are up by 1.8% in Fort Worth, 1.3% in San Antonio, 0.7% in Houston, and 0.4% in Dallas. Statewide, seasonally adjusted jobs are up 95,800 or 0.8%. Nationally, seasonally adjusted jobs are up from August by 194,000 or 0.1%.

In Austin, all private industry sectors added jobs over the last 12 months, most notably leisure and hospitality (23.6% or 23,900 jobs) and professional and business services (11.4% or 22,900). Wholesale trade and transportation, warehousing and utilities each grew by more than 8% (adding 4,300 and 2,300 jobs respectively). The slowest growing industry, based on percent change from September 2020, is construction and natural resources, which is up 3.3%.

Eight private industries in Austin have surpassed pre-pandemic employment and three have yet to regain March and April 2020’s losses. Leisure and hospitality shed 61,500 jobs in March and April of last year (45% of all jobs lost). With positive growth in 13 of the last 17 months, the industry has regained 52,500 of those jobs (34% of all jobs added over the 17 months). As of September, employment stands at 125,300, 6.7% below February 2020. That’s fewer jobs than the industry had four years ago. The other two private industries that have not regained February 2020’s level of employment are education and health services (below by 3.0%) and other services (below by 7.4%).

Additional graphs: New/lost jobs by industry, Aug.-Sept. 2021 and 2000-21 trend for six large industries and six small industries

Statewide, over the last 12 months, all private industries added jobs. As in Austin, the two industries with the most significant growth are leisure and hospitality (14.6%) and professional and business services (10.8%). Only five industries currently have more jobs now than they did in February 2020, notably transportation, warehousing and utilities, which is up by 8.8%. Professional and business services, financial activities, retail trade, and wholesale trade have also regained last year’s losses.

Nationally, all private industries added jobs over the 12 months ending in September, led by leisure and hospitality (14.6%) and transportation, warehousing and utilities (6.2%). Relative to February 2020, only construction and natural resources; transportation, warehousing and utilities; financial activities; and professional and business services have recovered pandemic-related job losses.

Over the last 12 months, the net gain for private service-providing industries in Austin is 73,700 jobs, or 9.7%. Employment in goods producing industries is up by 5,500 jobs or 4.2%. Statewide, private service-providing industries are up 624,500 or 7.4%, and goods producing industries are up 78,900 or 4.5%.

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 3. In August, Austin had the eighth lowest rate of unemployment among the 50 largest metros. Across Texas’ major metros, seasonally adjusted September rates are unchanged or improved from August by 0.1 to 0.2 percentage points.

In September, Austin’s not-seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate has fallen to 3.5%, while the other major Texas metros range from 4.3% in Dallas to 5.5% in Houston. San Antonio and Fort Worth are at 4.5%. Austin’s rate one year ago was 6.2%. The rates in the other major Texas metros are reduced from a year ago by 2.8 to 3.9 percentage points. The statewide rate is now 4.9%, down from 8.0% in September of last year. The national unemployment rate is also 4.6%, down from 7.7% 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 3.5% in September, while Caldwell County has the highest at 4.1%. The rate is 3.7% in Bastrop County and 3.8% in Hays County.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, Austin’s September unemployment rate is 3.7%, unchanged from August. The statewide rate is 5.6%, down from 5.9%, and the national rate is 4.8%, down from 5.4% in August.

Among Texas’ other major metros, Dallas has the next lowest seasonally adjusted unemployment rate, 4.6%, in September, while Fort Worth and San Antonio are at 4.7%, and Houston’s rate is 5.8%. 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 data.)

In February 2020, before pandemic impacts, the number unemployed in Austin was 33,307. The number climbed to 138,731 in April and also exceeded 100,000 in May and June. In September 2021, unemployed stands at 45,968, 38% above the level of February 2020.

The Austin metro’s civilian labor force (employed plus unemployed) fell by 99,547 persons or 7.8% in March and April of 2020, while persons employed decreased by 204,971 or 16.5%. Labor force now stands at 2.6% above what it was in February 2020 and employed is estimated at 1.7% above. Over the last month, labor force grew 0.9% and employed by 1.2%.

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

Texas’ labor force is 8,347 or 0.1% below pre-pandemic February 2020, while employment is lower by 212,020 or 1.5%. Thus, the number of unemployed is up by 203,673 or 41%. Nationally, September 2021 civilian labor force is down by 2.8 million or 1.7% from February 2020, while employed is below the level seen in February 2020 by about 4.0 million or 2.5%, and 1.1 million more people (18%) are unemployed.

The Texas Workforce Commission and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics will release October estimates on November 19.

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