Job growth & unemployment

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Posted on 11/22/2021 by Beverly Kerr

  • Austin has made up all of 2020’s pandemic-related job losses and currently has 32,500 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 1,000 jobs in October, but employment remains 9,800 or 7.3% below February 2020.
  • Austin's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 3.7% in October, unchanged from September.

Nonfarm payroll jobs

Austin’s nonfarm payroll jobs total as of October is 1,174,900 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 18,300 jobs in October. That is the largest monthly gain since June 2020. 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 51,000 jobs, while four industries have 18,500 jobs fewer than they had in February 2020.

Last month, Austin and five other major metros had surpassed the number of jobs they had pre-pandemic. This month, 10 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 2.8%, is the second best performing major metro. Dallas, San Antonio, and Fort Worth are also in the top 10. Houston (-2.9%) ranks 27th. New York ranks 50th with October 2021 jobs 7.0% below February 2020.

Texas regained its pandemic-related job losses in October in the not seasonally adjusted series. Total nonfarm jobs are 60,200 jobs or 0.5% above February 2020, while the U.S. is over 1.75 million jobs or 1.2% below.

Austin’s year-over-year increase of 7.0%, or 77,300 jobs, makes it the second best performing among the 50 largest metro areas, Dallas (5.1%), San Antonio (4.7%), Houston (4.6%) and Fort Worth (3.9%) rank 16th, 20th, 21st, and 29th, respectively.

For the year ending in October, private sector job growth in the Austin MSA is 8.5%, or 77,300 jobs, with gains across all major private industry sectors. Austin's sizable government sector (17% of jobs) is unchanged, thus bringing the overall year-over-year job growth rate to 7.0%.

Texas saw net private sector job growth of 6.4% with all private industry sectors adding jobs over the last 12 months. Total job growth was 5.5% as the government sector, which accounts for 15% of total state employment, grew by a moderate 0.9%. For the nation, private sector job growth was 4.5% for the 12 months ending in October with all private industries adding jobs. Overall job growth was lower, at 3.9%, as government sector jobs grew by only 1.0%.

Jobs in October are up by 18,300 jobs or 1.6% from September in the not-seasonally-adjusted series for Austin. In the seasonally adjusted series, jobs increased by 7,800 or 0.7%. Seasonally adjusted jobs are up by 0.6% in Dallas, 0.4% in San Antonio, 0.3% in Houston, and 0.2% in Fort Worth. Statewide, seasonally adjusted jobs are up 56,600 or 0.4%. Nationally, seasonally adjusted jobs are up from September by 531,000 or 0.4%.

In Austin, all private industry sectors added jobs over the last 12 months, most notably leisure and hospitality (19.8% or 20,600 jobs), professional and business services (12.7% or 25,700), and wholesale trade (10.5% or 5,600). Financial activities and transportation, warehousing and utilities each grew by more than 8% (adding 6,100 and 2,300 jobs respectively). The slowest growing industry, based on percent change from October 2020, is construction and natural resources, which is up 1.1%.

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 14 of the last 18 months, the industry has regained 51,700 of those jobs (31% of all jobs added over the 18 months). As of October, employment stands at 124,500, 7.3% 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 2.0%) and other services (below by 5.9%).

Additional graphs: New/lost jobs by industry, Sept.-Oct. 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 (11.8%) and professional and business services (10.4%). Only five industries currently have more jobs now than they did in February 2020, notably transportation, warehousing and utilities, which is up by 11.3%. 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 October, led by leisure and hospitality (13.4%) and transportation, warehousing and utilities (5.7%). Relative to February 2020, construction and natural resources; retail trade; 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 74,000 jobs, or 9.5%. Employment in goods producing industries is up by 3,300 jobs or 2.5%. Statewide, private service-providing industries are up 590,400 or 6.9%, and goods producing industries are up 73,100 or 4.2%.

Labor force, employment & unemployment

We also now have October 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 December 2. In September, Austin had the eighth lowest rate of unemployment among the 50 largest metros. Across Texas’ major metros, seasonally adjusted October rates are largely unchanged from September.

In October, Austin’s not-seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate has fallen to 3.4%, while the other major Texas metros range from 4.2% in Dallas to 5.4% in Houston. San Antonio and Fort Worth are at 4.3%. Austin’s rate one year ago was 5.2%. The rates in the other major Texas metros are reduced from a year ago by 1.9 to 2.6 percentage points. The statewide rate is now 4.8%, down from 6.9% in October of last year. The national unemployment rate is 4.3%, down from 6.6% 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 County has the lowest unemployment rates at 3.3% in October, while Caldwell County has the highest at 4.0%. The rate is 3.8% in Bastrop County, 3.5% in Hays County, and 3.4% in Williamson County.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, Austin’s October unemployment rate is 3.7%, unchanged from September. The statewide rate is 5.4%, down from 5.6%, and the national rate is 4.6%, down from 4.8% in September.

Among Texas’ other major metros, Dallas has the next lowest seasonally adjusted unemployment rate, 4.6%, in October, while Fort Worth and San Antonio are at 4.7%, and Houston’s rate is 6.0%. 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 October 2021, unemployed stands at 44,568, 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 2.5% above what it was in February 2020 and employed is estimated at 1.6% above. Over the last month, labor force grew 1.1% and employed by 1.2%.

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

Texas’ labor force is 9,640 or 0.1% below pre-pandemic February 2020, while employment is lower by 212,218 or 1.5%. Thus, the number of unemployed is up by 202,578 or 40%. Nationally, October 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 November estimates on December 17.

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