Job growth & unemployment

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Posted on 11/21/2022 by Beverly Kerr

  • Austin added 56,900 jobs, growth of 4.7%, in the 12 months ending in October, making it the 20th 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 October of 146,300 or 11.6% of all jobs. That percentage is lower than the industry’s 12.1% pre-pandemic share.
  • Austin's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 2.9% in October, up from 2.8% in September.

Nonfarm payroll jobs

Austin’s nonfarm payroll jobs total grew to 1,261,200 in October 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 October 2022, 40 of the top 50 metropolitan areas have regained their pre-pandemic level of jobs. Comparing metros based on where they stand relative to pre-pandemic February 2020, Austin, up 10.4%, is the best performing major metro. Dallas (10.1%) and Fort Worth (6.5%) are also in the top 10. San Antonio (4.5%) ranks 14th, while Houston (4.1%) ranks 15th. Milwaukee ranks 50th with October 2022 jobs 1.9% below February 2020.

Texas regained its pandemic-related job losses in October 2021 in the not-seasonally-adjusted series. Total nonfarm jobs are 764,400 jobs or 5.9% above February 2020. The U.S. topped its pre-pandemic jobs total for the first time in May 2022. This month, jobs nationally total 3.4 million or 2.3% above February 2020.

Austin’s year-over-year increase of 4.7%, or 56,900 jobs, makes it the 20th best performing among the 50 largest metro areas. Dallas is the fastest growing metro with 6.9% growth. Houston (6.2%) and Fort Worth (5.5%) are also in the top 10, ranking third and seventh respectively. San Antonio (4.6%) ranks 22nd.

For the year ending in October, private sector job growth in the Austin MSA is 5.5%, or 56,500 jobs, with gains across all major private industry sectors, but one. Austin's sizable government sector (15.9% of jobs) is up by only 400 jobs or 0.2%, thus bringing the overall year-over-year job growth rate to 4.7%.

Texas saw net private sector job growth of 6.2% with all private industry sectors adding jobs over the last 12 months. Total job growth was 5.4% as the government sector, which accounts for 15.5% of total state employment, grew by only 1.2%. For the nation, private sector job growth was 3.8% for the 12 months ending in October with all private industries adding jobs. Overall job growth was lower, at 3.4%, as the government sector jobs grew by a moderate 1.1%.

Jobs in October are up by 14,200 jobs or 1.1% from September in the not-seasonally-adjusted series for Austin. In the seasonally adjusted series, jobs are up by 2,000 or 0.2%. Seasonally adjusted jobs are up by 0.4% in Dallas and Houston, 0.5% in San Antonio, and 0.9% in Fort Worth. Statewide, seasonally adjusted jobs are up 49,500 or 0.4%. Nationally, seasonally adjusted jobs are up from September by 261,000 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 (15.5% or 19,600 jobs); manufacturing (7.9% or 5,200); transportation, warehousing and utilities (6.7% or 2,000); and professional and business services (6.1% or 15,100). Only construction and natural resources lost jobs (1.9% or 1,400 jobs).

Ten private industries in Austin have surpassed pre-pandemic employment and only 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 146,300 in October, 8.9% 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 900 jobs (1.9%) 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-Oct. 2022 and Sept.-Oct. 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 (11.6%) and leisure and hospitality (11.5%). All private industries currently have more jobs now than they did in February 2020, most notably transportation, warehousing and utilities, which is up by 14.3%. Construction and natural resources is least recovered from 2020 losses, but employment in the industry exceeds February 2020 by 0.7%.

Nationally, all private industries added jobs over the 12 months ending in October, led by leisure and hospitality (7.4%). Information and transportation, warehousing and utilities are up by 5.4% and 4.3% respectively. Relative to February 2020, nine private industries have recovered pandemic-related job losses and two, leisure and hospitality and other services, have not.

Over the last 12 months, the net gain for private service-providing industries in Austin is 52,700 jobs, or 6.0%. Employment in goods-producing industries is up by 3,800 jobs or 2.7%. Statewide, private service-providing industries are up 547,300 or 6.0%, and goods-producing industries are up 129,800 or 7.1%.

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 1. In September, Austin had the 21st lowest rate of unemployment among the 50 largest metros. Unemployment numbers for October show Austin’s performance relative to the state and other major Texas metros being sustained.

In October, Austin’s not-seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate is 2.8%, while the other major Texas metros range from 3.3% in Dallas to 4.1% in Houston. Fort Worth is at 3.4% and San Antonio is at 3.5%. Austin’s rate one year ago was 3.4%. The rates in the other major Texas metros are reduced from a year ago by 0.9 to 1.3 percentage points. The statewide rate is now 3.8%, down from 4.8% in October of last year. The national unemployment rate is 3.4%, down from 4.3% a year ago.

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

Travis County, at 2.8%, has the metro area’s lowest unemployment rate in October, while Bastrop and Caldwell Counties have the highest at 3.2%. The rate is 2.9% in Hays and Williamson Counties.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, Austin’s October unemployment rate is 2.9%, up from 2.8% in September. The statewide rate is unchanged at 4.0%. The national rate is 3.7%, up from 3.5% in September.

Among Texas’ other major metros, Dallas has the next lowest seasonally adjusted October unemployment rate, 3.5%. Fort Worth is at 3.6%, San Antonio is at 3.7%, 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 October 2022, unemployed stands at 38,558. That is 19.4% 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 8.6% above what it was in February 2020 and employed is estimated at 8.3% above.

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

Texas’ labor force is 4.0% above pre-pandemic February 2020, while employment 3.6% above. Nationally, civilian labor force and employment surpassed February 2020 for the first time in March 2022. In October, the national labor force exceeds February 2020 by 0.3%, employment is up by 0.7%.

Over the last 12 months, Austin’s labor force increased 2.5% and employed by 3.1%. Texas increased labor force by 2.2% and employed by 3.4%. Nationally, labor force growth was 1.8% and employment gained 2.7%.

The Texas Workforce Commission and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics will release November estimates on December 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. 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. October’s jobs represent 11.6% of all jobs, but before the pandemic, leisure and hospitality accounted for 12.1% of all jobs in Austin. It would take another 6,300 jobs for the industry to represent that share of jobs in October.

Related Categories: Central Texas Economy in Perspective