Job growth & unemployment

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Posted on 12/20/2021 by Beverly Kerr

  • Austin has made up all of 2020’s pandemic-related job losses and currently has 47,000 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 1,400 jobs in November, but employment remains 7,000 or 5.2% below February 2020.
  • Austin's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 3.5% in November, improved from 3.7% in October.

Nonfarm payroll jobs

Austin’s nonfarm payroll jobs total as of November is 1,189,400 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. Austin added a robust 11,800 jobs in November, following an outstanding gain of 21,000 in October.

Last month, Austin and nine other major metros had surpassed the number of jobs they had pre-pandemic. This month, 13 of the top 50 metros have regained their pre-pandemic level of jobs. Comparing metros based on where they stand relative to pre-pandemic February 2020, Austin, up 4.1%, is the second best performing major metro. Dallas, San Antonio, and Fort Worth are also in the top 10. Houston (-2.0%) ranks 27th. Philadelphia ranks 50th with November 2021 jobs 6.3% below February 2020.

Texas regained its pandemic-related job losses in October in the not seasonally adjusted series. Total nonfarm jobs are 196,200 jobs or 1.5% above February 2020, while the U.S. is nearly one million jobs or 0.6% below.

Austin’s year-over-year increase of 7.8%, or 85,800 jobs, makes it the second best performing among the 50 largest metro areas. Dallas (5.9%) is also in the top 10, while Fort Worth (5.0%), Houston (4.8%) and San Antonio (4.7%) rank 17th, 19th, and 20th, respectively.

For the year ending in November, private sector job growth in the Austin MSA is 9.4%, or 86,200 jobs, with gains across all major private industry sectors. Austin's sizable government sector (17% of jobs) is down by 0.2%, thus bringing the overall year-over-year job growth rate to 7.8%.

Texas saw net private sector job growth of 6.8% with all private industry sectors adding jobs over the last 12 months. Total job growth was 5.9% as the government sector, which accounts for 15% of total state employment, grew by only 1.1%. For the nation, private sector job growth was 4.6% for the 12 months ending in November with all private industries adding jobs. Overall job growth was lower, at 4.1%, as government sector jobs grew by a moderate 1.4%.

Jobs in November are up by 11,800 jobs or 1.0% from October in the not-seasonally-adjusted series for Austin. In the seasonally adjusted series, jobs increased by 9,800 or 0.8%. Seasonally adjusted jobs are up by 1.1% in Fort Worth, 0.9% in Dallas, 0.6% in Houston, and 0.4% in San Antonio. Statewide, seasonally adjusted jobs are up 75,100 or 0.6%. Nationally, seasonally adjusted jobs are up from October by 210,000 or 0.1%.

In Austin, all private industry sectors added jobs over the last 12 months, most notably leisure and hospitality (19.1% or 20,400 jobs), professional and business services (14.8% or 29,900), and wholesale trade (11.0% or 5,900). Financial activities and other services each grew by more than 8% (adding 5,700 and 3,500 jobs respectively). The slowest growing industry, based on percent change from November 2020, is manufacturing, which is up 1.6%.

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 15 of the last 19 months, the industry has regained 54,500 of those jobs. As of November, employment stands at 127,300, 5.2% below February 2020. That’s about the number of jobs 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 0.8% or 1,100 jobs) and other services (below by 5.1% or 2,400 jobs).

Additional graphs: New/lost jobs by industry, Oct.-Nov. 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 (11.5%) and professional and business services (11.8%). Only five industries currently have more jobs now than they did in February 2020, most notably transportation, warehousing and utilities, which is up by 14.0%. 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 November, led by leisure and hospitality (14.3%), other services (5.6%), and professional and business services (5.5%). 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 84,000 jobs, or 10.8%. Employment in goods producing industries is up by 2,200 jobs or 1.6%. Statewide, private service-providing industries are up 627,900 or 7.3%, and goods producing industries are up 77,100 or 4.4%.

Labor force, employment & unemployment

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 will not be released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics until December 30. In October, Austin had the 11th lowest rate of unemployment among the 50 largest metros. Across Texas’ major metros, seasonally adjusted November rates are improved from October by 0.2 percentage points.

In November, Austin’s not-seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate has fallen to 3.2%, while the other major Texas metros range from 3.9% in Dallas to 5.1% in Houston. Fort Worth and San Antonio are at 4.0% and 4.1% respectively. Austin’s rate one year ago was 5.1%. The rates in the other major Texas metros are reduced from a year ago by 2.2 to 2.8 percentage points. The statewide rate is now 4.5%, down from 6.9% in November of last year. The national unemployment rate is 3.9%, down from 6.4% 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 3.1% in November, while Caldwell County has the highest at 3.8%. The rate is 3.6% in Bastrop County, 3.3% in Hays County, and 3.2% in Williamson County.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, Austin’s November unemployment rate is 3.5%, improved from 3.7% in October. The statewide rate is 5.2%, down from 5.4%, and the national rate is 4.2%, down from 4.6% in October.

Among Texas’ other major metros, Dallas has the next lowest seasonally adjusted unemployment rate, 4.3%, in November, while Fort Worth and San Antonio are at 4.4% and 4.5% respectively, and Houston’s rate is 5.7%. 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 November 2021, unemployed stands at 42,451, 27% 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 4.7% above what it was in February 2020 and employed is estimated at 4.1% above. Over the last month, labor force grew 0.9% and employed by 1.1%.

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

Texas’ labor force is 167,638 or 1.0% above pre-pandemic February 2020, while employment is higher by 14,059 or 0.1%. Thus, the number of unemployed is up by 153,579 or 30.6%. Nationally, November 2021 civilian labor force is down by 2.1 million or 1.3% from February 2020, while employed is below the level seen in February 2020 by about 2.2 million or 1.4%, and 84,000 more people (1.4%) are unemployed.

The Texas Workforce Commission and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics will release December estimates on January 21.

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