- Austin added 9,800 jobs in November, narrowing pandemic-related job losses to 14,600.
- Austin’s 1.1% 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 six of the last seven months. Nearly 58% of the 67,300 jobs lost in March and April have been regained.
- Austin's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased from 5.3% in October to 6.3% in November.
Nonfarm payroll jobs
The Austin metropolitan area added 9,800 jobs in November, narrowing pandemic-related job losses to 14,600 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 November is 1,123,300. 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 114,000 of those jobs.
Austin’s year-over-year decline of 1.1%, or 12,800 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 13th and Houston’s 4.6% decline ranks 16th. Three major metros—New York, Las Vegas, and Detroit—remain down by more than 10% compared to November 2019.
For the year ending in November, private sector job loss in the Austin MSA is 1.1%, or 10,600 jobs, with losses occurring in six of the 11 major private industry sectors. Austin's sizable government sector (17% of jobs) shrank by 1.2% or 2,200 jobs.
Texas saw net private sector job losses of 4.0% with all but three private industry sectors losing jobs over the last 12 months. Total job losses were 3.8% as the government sector, which accounts for 15% of total state employment, had slighter losses (2.5%). For the nation, private sector losses were 6.1% for the 12 months ending in November with all private industries losing jobs. Overall job loss was 6.0% as government sector’s losses were relatively moderate (5.3%).
Jobs in November are up by 9,800 jobs or 0.9% from October in the not-seasonally-adjusted series for Austin. In the seasonally adjusted series, jobs increased by 6,100 or 0.5%. Seasonally adjusted jobs are up by 0.9% in Fort Worth, 0.6% in Houston, 0.4% in Dallas, and unchanged in San Antonio. Statewide, seasonally adjusted jobs are up 61,000 or 0.5%. Nationally, seasonally adjusted jobs are up from October by 245,00 or 0.2%.
In Austin, five private industry sectors have positive growth over the last 12 months, most notably financial activities (17.5% or 11,800 jobs), followed by manufacturing (6.9% or 4,300), and professional and business services (6.1% or 12,400).
The greatest number of job losses, and greatest percent change, over the last year happened in leisure and hospitality (20.6% or 28,200 jobs). Information also saw a double-digit loss (11.3% or 4,400) and education and health services is also notably down (5.5% or 7,200).
Compared to our last pre-pandemic month, February, six industries have lost jobs and six have gained. Financial activities, up 17.0%, and transportation, warehousing and utilities (7.7%) lead; followed by professional and business services (6.5%) and manufacturing (4.5%). The most notable losses over the last eight months are in leisure and hospitality (20.8% or 28,600 jobs), information (11.5%), and education and health services (6.1%).
Leisure and hospitality added back 38,700 jobs over the last seven months, reducing what had been losses of 67,300 jobs (-48.9%) in March and April. As of November, employment stands at 108,900. The last time Austin’s leisure and hospitality industry had a similar level of employment was early 2015. Pre-pandemic, about 78% of Austin’s leisure and hospitality industry jobs were in food services and drinking places and, in November, the share is 81%. Losses since February represent 18,800 jobs (-17.6%) in food services and drinking places and 9,800 jobs (-31.8%) in accommodation and the remainder of leisure and hospitality.
Statewide, over the last 12 months, only three industries added jobs. Financial activities; transportation, warehousing, and utilities; and professional and business services are up 2.6%, 2.2%, and 0.8% respectively. A double-digit loss prevails in leisure and hospitality (13.0% or 181,800 jobs). Also notably down are construction and natural resources (8.0%) and wholesale trade (6.7%).
Nationally, no industries added jobs over the 12 months ending in November. The largest percent change occurred in leisure and hospitality (19.8% or 3.25 million jobs), followed by information (9.4%), and other services (7.0%). Financial activities is the best recovered industry with jobs only 0.8% lower than they were a year ago.
Over the last 12 months, the net loss for private service-providing industries in Austin is 14,000 jobs, or 1.7%. Employment in goods producing industries is up by 3,400 jobs or 2.5%. Statewide, private service-providing industries are down 323,700, or 3.6%, and goods producing industries are down 115,800, or 5.9%.
Between October and November, Austin’s private service providing industries added 7,400 jobs or 0.9% and goods producing industries added 2,200 jobs or 1.6%. Statewide, jobs increased by 83,300 or 1.0% in private service providing industries and by 1,600 or 0.1% 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 37,267 jobs or 3.3% in November instead of 11,800 jobs or 1.0%. Similarly, Texas has 5.1% fewer jobs according to the Dallas Fed, compared to 3.7% in the preliminary BLS/TWC estimates. A deficit of 3.3% for Austin would still be strong enough to be among the top 10 performing major metros this month. The Dallas Fed series has Austin losing about 5,100 more jobs in March and April than the BLS/TWC series and having thus far regained 68% of the lost jobs instead of 83%.
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 until January 5. In October, Austin had the ninth lowest rate of unemployment among the 50 largest metros. Across Texas’ major metros, seasonally adjusted November rates are above October by between 1.0 (Austin) and 1.3 (Fort Worth) percentage points.
In November, Austin’s not-seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate is at 5.9%, while the other major Texas metros range from 7.1% in Dallas to 8.9% in Houston. Fort Worth and San Antonio are at 7.3%. Austin’s rate one year ago was 2.5%. The rates in the other major Texas metros are elevated from a year ago by 4.0 to 5.2 percentage points. The statewide rate is now 8.0%, up from 3.4% in November of last year. The national unemployment rate is 6.4%, up from 3.3% a year ago.
Within the Austin MSA, Williamson County has the lowest unemployment rate at 5.7% in November, while Caldwell county has the highest at 6.5%. The rate is 5.9% in Travis County, 6.0% in Hays County, and 6.1% in Bastrop County.
On a seasonally adjusted basis, Austin’s November unemployment rate is 6.3%, up from 5.3% in October. The statewide rate is 8.1%, up from 6.9%, and the national rate is 6.7%, down from 6.9% in October.
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 7.4% and 7.6% respectively, in November, while San Antonio is at 7.8% and Houston’s rate is 9.2%. 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 November, unemployed stands at 74,345. That level is 134% 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 growth has been negative for two of the last three months for both series. November totals for both remain below levels attained in August. Labor force now stands at 0.2% above what it was in February and employed is now estimated at 3.1% below. Compared to one year ago, labor force is 1.0% higher and employed is 2.4% lower.
Texas’ employment is 653,779 or 4.8% below last November, while labor force is essentially unchanged. Thus, the number of unemployed increased by 649,281 or 135%. Nationally, November civilian labor force is down by 3.9 million or 2.4% year-over-year, while employed is below the level seen in November 2019 by 8.7 million or 5.5%, and 4.8 million more people (87%) are unemployed.
The TWC and the BLS will release December estimates on January 22.
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.
- Monthly CES data provides limited industry detail for the Austin metro, but strong growth appears to be occurring throughout financial activities, with the exception of insurance, which has grown only slightly (3% or 500 jobs). About 40% of the financial activities jobs added over the last 12 months appear to come from the “securities, commodity contracts, and other financial investments and related activities” industry. The financial activities sector is made up of finance and insurance (67%) and real estate, rental, and leasing (33%).↩
Related Categories: Central Texas Economy in Perspective