Austin downtown skyline over Town Lake

April 26, 2016 – Job Growth & Unemployment

Posted By Beverly Kerr | Apr 26, 2016
Central Texas Economy in Perspective Print Article Austin downtown skyline over Town Lake
  • #**Austin added 38,700 net new jobs, growth of 4.1%, in the 12 months ending in March, making Austin the fourth fastest growing major metro.

  • Leisure and hospitality added the most jobs (7,500 or 6.7%) in the past year, however, the fastest growing industries are wholesale trade (9.5%) and construction and natural resources (8.8%).

  • The Austin metro’s civilian labor has increased by 3.7% from one year ago, while persons employed increased by 3.8%.

  • Austin's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 3.2%, up from 3.0% in February.

The Austin metropolitan area added 38,700 net new jobs, or 4.1%, in the 12 months ending in March, according to the latest release of preliminary payroll jobs numbers by the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics(BLS). Austin’s 4.1% growth makes it the fourth best performing among the 50 largest metro areas. Dallas, at 4.8%, had the fastest growing job market. The other three major Texas metros missed the top 10. San Antonio grew by 2.9% (20th), Fort Worth grew by 1.8% (39th), and Houston grew by 0.3% (49th) between March 2015 and March 2016.

For the year ending in March, private sector job growth in the Austin MSA is 4.7%, or 36,600 jobs, and with all private industry divisions, but manufacturing, contributing to the growth. Austin's sizable government sector (nearly 18% of jobs) saw modest growth over the last 12 months, gaining 2,100 jobs or 1.2%, thus bringing the overall job growth rate to 4.1%.

Texas saw weaker net private sector job growth of 1.5% with eight 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, 1.8%. For the nation, private sector growth is 2.3% for the 12 months ending in March, with all private industries, but one, adding jobs. Overall job growth is a more modest 2.0% because the government sector gained only 0.5%.

Jobs in March are up from February by 4,900 jobs or 0.5% in the not-seasonally-adjusted series for Austin, while on a seasonally adjusted basis, jobs are up by 700 or 0.1%. That’s an uncommonly small monthly gain for Austin, where, for the last four years, seasonally adjusted job growth has averaged over 3,000 per month.**Seasonally adjusted jobs up in Fort Worth by 0.5% and down by 0.1% in Houston. Jobs are virtually unchanged in Dallas and San Antonio. Statewide, seasonally adjusted jobs are down 0.1% (12,000 jobs) in March. Nationally, seasonally adjusted jobs rose 0.1% in March.

In Austin, the industry adding the most jobs is leisure and hospitality which grew by 7,500 jobs, or 6.7%, over the last 12 months. Wholesale trade grew fastest at 9.5% (4,500 jobs), followed by construction and natural resources at 8.9% (4,800). Also growing at a faster-than-average rate is education and health services (6.5% or 7,100 jobs). Manufacturing lost 1.2% or 700 jobs.

Statewide, leisure and hospitality grew fastest (6.0%) and added the most jobs (72,000). The other relatively fast growing private industries were education and health services (4.1%), retail trade (2.9%), wholesale trade (2.6%), financial activities (2.3%), and other services (2.3%). Jobs in construction and natural resources declined by 46,600 (4.8%) and manufacturing lost 37,500 jobs (4.2%) over the last 12 months. The contraction of the construction and natural resources sector was driven by natural resources industries (down 55,200 jobs or 18.9%). The construction industry added jobs (8,600 or 1.3%). Texas’ manufacturing losses were concentrated in two durable goods industries—machinery and fabricated metal products manufacturing. The third industry with negative job growth was transportation, warehousing and utilities (800 jobs or 0.2%).

Nationally, education and health services and leisure and hospitality grew fastest, both adding 3.2% over the 12 months ending in March. Professional and business services and retail trade also grew at faster-than-average rates, 3.1% and 2.5% respectively. Manufacturing jobs declined by 0.2%.

The net gain for private service-providing industries in Austin is 32,500 jobs, or 4.9%, over the last 12 months. Employment in goods producing industries is up by 4,100 jobs or 3.7%. Statewide, private service-providing industries are up 232,500 or 2.9%, but goods producing industries are down 84,100 jobs or 4.5%.

We also now have March 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 April 27. In February, Austin had the second lowest rate of unemployment among the 50 largest metros.

Unemployment numbers for March show Austin’s performance relative to the state and other major Texas metros being sustained. In March, Austin is at 3.1%, while the other major metros range from 3.7% in Dallas and San Antonio to 4.9% in Houston. Fort Worth is at 4.0%. Austin’s rate one year ago was 3.3%. The rates in Texas’ other major metros are also improved from the rates seen a year ago, except for Houston, which has seen its unemployment rate increase (from 4.3%). The statewide not-seasonally-adjusted rate is now 4.5%, up from 4.3% in March of last year. The U.S. unemployment rate is 5.1%, improved from 5.6% a year ago.

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 below pre-recession levels for over a year in Austin. Texas’ first quarter average (4.4%) is slightly above the rate averaged in 2007. The nation, with first quarter unemployment averaging 5.2%, has a larger gap to bridge in regaining its pre-recession level of unemployment.

Within the Austin MSA, Travis County has the lowest unemployment rate in March, at 3.0%, while Caldwell County has the highest at 4.3%. The rate is 3.2% in Hays and Williamson Counties and 3.6% in Bastrop County.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, Austin’s March unemployment rate is 3.2%, up from 3.0% in February. Rates have been 3.3% or lower since June. Austin has not seen unemployment this low since early 2001, before the “dot-com” recession. The statewide rate is 4.3%, unchanged from February. Nationally, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 5.0%, up from 4.9% in February.

Among Texas major metros, Dallas and San Antonio has the next lowest seasonally adjusted rate at 3.7%, while Fort Worth and Houston are at 4.0% and 5.0% respectively. March rates are up from February 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 one year ago, the number unemployed has also declined. In March 2015, Austin’s number of unemployed was 34,750. Over the last 12 months, the unemployed have decreased by 535 or 1.5%, to 34,215. 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 3.7% or 38,664 persons from one year ago, while persons employed increased by 3.8% or 39,199. Texas saw 2.0% growth in labor force and 1.8% in employed, while the number unemployed increased by 6.1%. Nationally, March civilian labor force is up by 1.6%, while employed is above the level of a year ago by 2.1%, and 566,000 fewer people (6.5%) are unemployed.

Texas Workforce Commission will release April estimates on May 20.

Footnote:

** Note that March’s estimate will be revised next month with the first release of data for April. Also, the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas produces their own set of seasonally adjusted nonfarm payroll jobs estimates for Texas metropolitan areas. While the BLS/TWC series undergo benchmark revisions annually, the Dallas Fed maintains a quarterly revision process. The Dallas Fed shows Austin’s March seasonally adjusted job growth as 1,536 or 0.2%.

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.