City of Austin Skyline

December 20, 2016 - Job Growth & Unemployment

Posted By Beverly Kerr | Dec 20, 2016
Central Texas Economy in Perspective Print Article City of Austin Skyline
  • Austin's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 3.0%, down from 3.2% in October.
  • In the 12 months ending in November, Austin added 19,500 net new jobs, growth of 2.0%. For this period, Austin is the 25th fastest growing major metro.
  • Education and health services added the most jobs (8,800 or 4.3%) in the past year, while the fastest growing industry was construction and natural resources (6.6% or 3,800 jobs).

The Austin metropolitan area added 19,500 net new jobs, or 2.0%, in the 12 months ending in November, according to Friday's release of payroll jobs numbers by the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). November appears to continue (numbers are preliminary) a drop-off in Austin’s rate of job growth that began in August or, arguably, earlier. The first seven months of 2016 averaged better than 4% year-over-year growth, but in August the rate fell to 3.3%, followed by 2.9% in September, 2.3% in October, and 2.0% in November.

Austin’s 2.0% growth makes it the 25th best performing among the 50 largest metro areas. Orlando topped the ranking by growing at 4.5%, while Fort Lauderdale was second with growth of 3.8%. Dallas, at 3.6%, was the third fastest growing job market and the only Texas metro in the top ten. Fort Worth grew by 2.5% (15th), San Antonio grew by 1.6% (32nd), and Houston grew by 0.5% (48th) between November 2015 and November 2016.

For the year ending in November, private sector job growth in the Austin MSA is 2.1%, or 17,200 jobs, and with all private industry divisions, except manufacturing, contributing to the growth. Austin's sizable government sector (nearly 18% of jobs) saw modest growth over the last 12 months, gaining 2,300 jobs or 1.3%, thus bringing the overall job growth rate to 2.0%.

Texas saw weaker net private sector job growth of 1.7% with nine of eleven private industry divisions adding jobs over the last 12 months. The government sector, which accounts for over 16% of total state employment, grew faster, 2.1%. Overall job growth was 1.8%. For the nation, private sector growth is 1.7% for the 12 months ending in November, with all private industries, but manufacturing, adding jobs. Overall job growth is a more modest 1.6% because the government sector gained only 1.0%.

Jobs in November are up from October by 5,600 jobs or 0.6% in the not-seasonally-adjusted series for Austin. Job change from October to November is up in the seasonally adjusted series by 1,500 or 0.2%. Dallas, Fort Worth, and San Antonio each gained 0.3%. The estimate for Houston was essentially unchanged. Statewide, seasonally adjusted jobs are up 20,900 or 0.2% in November. Nationally, seasonally adjusted jobs are up 0.1%.

In Austin, the industry adding the most jobs over the last 12 months is education and health services which grew by 8,800 jobs, or 4.3%. Construction and natural resources grew fastest at 6.6% (3,800 jobs). Also growing at faster-than-average rates are other services at 3.9% (1,600); financial activities at 3.8% (2,100); transportation, warehousing and utilities at 3.7% (600); wholesale trade at 3.0% (1,500); and information at 2.6% (700). Manufacturing lost 6.4% or 3,700 jobs. [Click here for a series of graphs illustrating the last decade of each industry’s growth in Austin compared to the state and the nation.]

Statewide, education and health services grew fastest, 4.1%, and added the most jobs (66,700). The other relatively fast growing private industries include leisure and hospitality (3.8%), financial activities (2.9%), wholesale trade (2.5%), and professional and business services (2.0%). Construction and natural resources lost 28,000 jobs, or 2.9%, and manufacturing jobs declined by 23,400, or 2.7%, and over the last 12 months.

Nationally, professional and business services grew fastest, adding 2.9% over the 12 months ending in November. The other industries growing at faster-than-average rates were education and health services (2.6%), financial activities (1.9%), and leisure and hospitality (1.9%). The number of manufacturing jobs declined by 0.4%.

The net gain for private service-providing industries in Austin is 17,100 jobs, or 2.5%, over the last 12 months. Employment in goods producing industries is up by 100 jobs or 0.1%. Statewide, private service-providing industries are up 224,500 or 2.7%, while goods producing industries are down 51,400 jobs or 2.8%. This is the first instance of Austin’s service-providing industries growth lagging the state’s since the early 2000s dot-com recession.

A few private service-providing industries are growing at or close to rates averaged over the last few or the last several years while others have distinctly slowed. The two largest industries, professional and business services and leisure and hospitality, are also the two industries seeing the most marked slowing of growth in recent months. Professional and business services accounts for nearly 17% of the region’s total jobs. November’s year-over-year growth of 1.2% (2,500 jobs) is a fraction of the rates sustained in the past. Year-over-year growth in the industry has averaged 6.8% since 2011 and if that applied now, would have brought 11,000 net new jobs. Leisure and hospitality, the next largest industry in Austin (12% of all jobs), has seen growth over the last 12 months of 1.2% (1,400 jobs), compared to the 6.0% averaged since 2011. [Click here for a series of graphs illustrating the last decade of each industry’s growth in Austin compared to the state and the nation.]

We also now have November labor force, employment, and unemployment numbers for Texas and local areas in Texas. The same data for all U.S. metros that we often do a ranking of will not be released until December 29. In October, Austin had the fourth lowest rate of unemployment among the 50 largest metros.

Unemployment numbers for November show Austin’s performance relative to the state and other major Texas metros being sustained. In November, Austin is at 3.0%, while the other major metros range from 3.4% in Dallas to 4.9% in Houston. San Antonio is at 3.5% and Fort Worth is at 3.6%. Austin’s rate was 3.2% a year ago. Rates in Dallas, Fort Worth and San Antonio are also improved over November of last year. Houston’s rate was lower (4.8%) a year ago.

In September, Texas had a higher unemployment rate, 4.9%, than the national rate (4.8%). The last time Texas’ unemployment rate exceeded the national rate was in November 2006. In October, Texas’ rate fell to 4.4%, below the national rate of 4.7%. November sees Texas at 4.2% and the national rate at 4.4%.

In 2007, before the impact of the Great Recession, unemployment averaged 3.6% in Austin, 4.3% in Texas, and 4.6% nationally. Unemployment has been at or below pre-recession levels for 22 months in Austin. Texas’ year-to-date average (4.6%) is above what it averaged in 2007. The nation, with unemployment averaging 4.9% in 2016, has also not regained its pre-recession level of unemployment.

Within the Austin MSA, Travis County has the lowest unemployment rate in November, at 2.9%, while Caldwell County has the highest at 3.8%. The rate is 3.1% in Hays and Williamson Counties and 3.4% in Bastrop County.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, Austin’s November unemployment rate is 3.0%, down from 3.2% in October. The statewide rate is 4.6%, down from 4.7% in October. Nationally, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 4.6%, down from 4.9% in October.

Among Texas’ other major metros, seasonally adjusted unemployment ranges from 3.2% in Fort Worth to 4.6% in Houston. San Antonio is at 3.5% and Dallas is at 4.1%. November rates improved from October in each metro.  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.)

With Austin’s unemployment rate down from the rate one year ago, the number of unemployed is down by 1,145 or 3.3%. In November 2016, Austin’s number of unemployed is 33,706. The number of unemployed in Austin averaged more than 60,000 for three years running during the Great Recession.

The Austin metro’s civilian labor force (employed plus unemployed) has increased by 2.3% or 25,205 persons from one year ago, while persons employed increased by 2.5% or 26,350. Texas saw 1.9% growth in labor force and 2.1% growth in employed, while the number unemployed declined by 2.8% or 16,411. Nationally, November civilian labor force is up by 1.3%, while employed is above the level of a year ago by 1.7%, and 507,000 fewer people (6.7%) are unemployed.

The Texas Workforce Commission will release December estimates on January 20.

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.

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Beverly Kerr

Vice President of Research, Beverly Kerr, joined the Chamber’s Economic Development Department in 2004, following 10 years in a similar role with the Kansas City Area Development Council. Beverly earned an M.A. in economics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.