Job growth & unemployment

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Posted on 11/24/2020 by Beverly Kerr

  • Austin added 17,400 jobs in October, narrowing pandemic-related job losses to 28,300.
  • Austin’s 1.9% year-over-year job loss is more moderate than the declines seen in all other major metros.
  • Austin’s leisure and hospitality industry added jobs in five of the last six months. Over 55% of the 67,300 jobs lost in March and April have been regained.
  • Austin's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate decreased from 6.4% in September to 5.3% in October.

Nonfarm payroll jobs

The Austin metropolitan area added 17,400 jobs in October, narrowing pandemic-related job losses to 28,300 according to Friday's releases of preliminary Current Employment Statistics (CES) payroll jobs numbers by the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Austin’s nonfarm payroll jobs total as of October is 1,109,600. In February, before the impacts from COVID-19, Austin had an estimated 1,137,900 jobs (38,000 jobs or 3.5% above the same month of 2019—an average trajectory for Austin in recent years). Combining job losses for March and April, Austin lost 128,600 jobs, or 11.4%. Growth since then has brought back 100,300 of those jobs.

Austin’s year-over-year decline of 1.9%, or 21,100 jobs, makes it the best performing among the 50 largest metro areas. Dallas and Fort Worth also ranked in the top 10. San Antonio’s loss of 3.9% ranks 11th and Houston’s 4.8% decline ranks 17th. Four major metros—New York, Las Vegas, Oakland, and Detroit—remain down by more than 10% compared to October 2019.

For the year ending in October, private sector job loss in the Austin MSA is 2.0%, or 18,600 jobs, with losses occurring in six of the 11 major private industry sectors. Austin's sizable government sector (17% of jobs) shrank more moderately, by 1.4% (2,500 jobs), thus bringing the overall job loss rate to 1.9%.

Texas saw net private sector job losses of 4.2% with all but two private industry sectors losing jobs over the last 12 months. Total job losses were only 3.9% as the government sector, which accounts for 15% of total state employment, had slighter losses (2.1%). For the nation, private sector losses were 6.2% for the 12 months ending in October with all private industries losing jobs. Overall job loss was 6.0% as government sector’s losses were relatively moderate (4.7%).

Jobs in October are up by 17,400 jobs or 1.6% from September in the not-seasonally-adjusted series for Austin. In the seasonally adjusted series, jobs increased by 11,600 or 1.1%. Seasonally adjusted jobs are up by 1.8% in Fort Worth, 0.8% in Dallas and San Antonio, and 0.6% in Houston. Statewide, seasonally adjusted jobs are up 118,100 or 1.0%. Nationally, seasonally adjusted jobs are up from September by 638,000 or 0.5%.

In Austin, five private industry sectors have positive growth over the last 12 months, most notably financial activities (10.9% or 7,400 jobs), followed by professional and business services (5.1% or 10,300) and manufacturing (5.3% or 3,300).

The greatest number of job losses, and greatest percent change, over the last year happened in leisure and hospitality (22.2% or 30,600 jobs). Information also saw a double-digit loss (11.3% or 4,400) and education and health services is also notably down (4.5% or 5,800).

Additional graphs – New/lost jobs by industry: February to October and September to October

Compared to our last pre-pandemic month, February, seven industries have lost jobs and five have gained. Financial activities, up 11.1%, and professional and business services, up 5.9%, lead; followed by transportation, warehousing and utilities (2.4%), and manufacturing (2.2%). The most notable losses over the last seven months are in leisure and hospitality (21.9% or 30,100 jobs), information (11.8%), education and health services (5.8%), government (2.5%), and other services (2.4%).

Leisure and hospitality added back 37,200 jobs over the last six months, reducing what had been losses of 67,300 jobs (-48.9%) in March and April. As of October, employment stands at 107,400. The last time Austin’s leisure and hospitality industry had a similar level of employment was mid-2014. Pre-pandemic, about 78% of Austin’s leisure and hospitality industry jobs were in food services and drinking places and, in October, the share is 79%. Losses since February represent 21,900 jobs (-20.5%) in food services and drinking places and 8,200 jobs (-26.6%) in accommodation and the remainder of leisure and hospitality.

Statewide, over the last 12 months, only two industries added jobs. Financial activities and professional and business services are up 1.1% and 0.8% respectively. A double-digit loss prevails in leisure and hospitality (14.7% or 206,300 jobs). Also notably down are construction and natural resources (7.6%), wholesale trade (6.3%), and other services (5.3%).

Nationally, no industries added jobs over the 12 months ending in October. The largest percent change occurred in leisure and hospitality (19.7% or 3.3 million jobs), followed by information (8.3%), and other services (6.8%). Financial activities is the best recovered industry with jobs only 0.9% lower than they were a year ago.

Over the last 12 months, the net loss for private service-providing industries in Austin is 21,700 jobs, or 2.7%. Employment in goods producing industries is up by 3,100 jobs or 2.3%. Statewide, private service-providing industries are down 354,700, or 3.9%, and goods producing industries are down 101,400, or 5.2%.

Between September and October, Austin’s private service providing industries added 14,700 jobs or 1.9% and goods producing industries added 600 jobs or 0.4%. Statewide, jobs increased by 153,400 or 1.8% in private service providing industries and by 24,500 or 1.3% in goods producing industries.

An alternative version of seasonally adjusted nonfarm payroll jobs is estimated by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. Annually, the BLS/TWC revise the sample survey-based CES series by benchmarking the estimates against the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW). The Dallas Fed “early-benchmarks” CES estimates against QCEW each quarter, instead of annually. Earlier this month, QCEW delivered payroll jobs data through June and the Dallas Fed series now takes account of this data. The BLS/TWC series, which was benchmark-revised in March, is informed by QCEW data only through September 2019.

QCEW gives a representation of March and April losses, but only two months of the recovery. Given the unprecedented nature of this recession it may be early days to begin second-guessing the performance of Texas’ labor markets as represented by monthly CES estimates, but Texas’ recovery looks somewhat less robust in the Dallas Fed version of this data. Comparing year-over-year change in the seasonally adjusted Dallas Fed series to the seasonally adjusted BLS/TWC data, Austin is down by 38,704 jobs or 3.4% in October instead of 20,400 jobs or 1.8%. Similarly, Texas has 5.2% fewer jobs according to the Dallas Fed, compared to 3.9% in the preliminary BLS/TWC estimates. A deficit of 3.4% for Austin would still be strong enough to be among the top 10 performing major metros this month. The Dallas Fed series has Austin loosing about 5,000 more jobs in March and April than the BLS/TWC series and having thus far regained 62% of the lost jobs instead of 76%.

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 until December 3. In September, Austin had the 13th lowest rate of unemployment among the 50 largest metros. Across Texas’ major metros, seasonally adjusted October rates are lower than September by between 1.1 (Austin) and 1.5 (Houston) percentage points.

In October, Austin’s not-seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate is at 5.1%, while the other major Texas metros range from 6.0% in Dallas to 7.7% in Houston. Fort Worth is at 6.2% and San Antonio is at 6.3%. Austin’s rate one year ago was 2.6%. The rates in the other major Texas metros are elevated from a year ago by 2.9 to 4.1 percentage points. The statewide rate is now 6.7%, up from 3.3% in October of last year. The national unemployment rate is 6.6%, up from 3.3% a year ago.

Within the Austin MSA, Williamson County has the lowest unemployment rate at 4.8% in October, while Caldwell county has the highest at 5.4%. The rate is 5.1% in Hays County and 5.2% in Bastrop and Travis Counties.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, Austin’s October unemployment rate is 5.3%, down from 6.4% in September. The statewide rate is 6.9%, down from 8.3%, and the national rate is 6.9%, down from 7.9% in September.

In the aftermath of the dot-com bust, the highest seasonally adjusted unemployment rate reached in Austin was 6.1%. In the Great Recession, the highest rate was 7.5% and rates over 7% prevailed for 12 months.

Among Texas’ other major metros, Dallas and Fort Worth have the next lowest seasonally adjusted unemployment rates, at 6.2% and 6.4% respectively, in October, while San Antonio is at 6.6% and Houston’s rate is 8.0%. 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.)

In February, before pandemic impacts, the number unemployed in Austin was 33,432 (very close to 2019’s annual average). The number climbed to 138,785 in April. In October, unemployed stands at 63,682. That level is 99% above the level of one year ago.

The Austin metro’s civilian labor force (employed plus unemployed) fell by 128,719 persons or 10.2% from February to April, while persons employed decreased by 234,072 or 19.0%. Both labor force and employed largely regained these losses over the following four months, however labor force lost ground in September and October and employed fell back in September. October totals for both remain below August levels. Labor force now stands at 0.6% below what it was in February and employed is now estimated at 3.1% below. Compared to one year ago, labor force is 0.4% higher and employed is 2.2% lower.

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

Texas’ employment is 542,986 or 4.0% below last October, while labor force is lower by 67,023 or 0.5%. Thus, the number of unemployed increased by 475,963 or 100%. Nationally, October civilian labor force is down by 3.5 million or 2.1% year-over-year, while employed is below the level seen in October 2019 by 8.6 million or 5.4%, and 5.1 million more people (93%) are unemployed.

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

Related Categories: Central Texas Economy in Perspective