Austin area adds 18,000 jobs in October; jobless rate down to 3.4%

Austin area adds 18,000 jobs in October; jobless rate down to 3.4%

November 19, 2021 Off By administrator

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Businesses in the Austin area added more than 18,000 workers to payrolls in October, continuing a strong pace of hiring that dropped the unemployment rate to 3.4% — a new pandemic-era low for the fourth consecutive month.

The trend is the latest indication that business activity in the region has fully recovered from the pandemic-induced downturn, at least on a macro level, according to economists.

“In terms of the economy, the pandemic is essentially over” in the Austin area, said Jon Hockenyos, president of Austin-based economic analysis firm TXP Inc. “The issue right now in the Austin labor market is not if you can find a job — it’s how much are you going to get paid” to take it.

The local unemployment rate, which came in at 3.5% in September, has fallen steadily since June after spending much of the previous 12 months bouncing around in a range of about 5% to 6%, according to figures from the Texas Workforce Commission that haven’t been adjusted for seasonal factors.

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It remains above its 2.6% rate in October 2019, prior to the pandemic. But it has improved significantly after shooting up to 11.8% in April last year, when the shock of the coronavirus first slammed the economy statewide and nationally and triggered huge numbers of job cuts.

“As an economist, I have no complaints with a 3.4% unemployment rate,” said Dirk Mateer, a University of Texas professor. “That’s considered good to great” in most places even before the pandemic.

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In addition, the labor force in the Austin metro area, which includes Travis, Williamson, Hays, Bastrop and Caldwell counties, has grown significantly over the past two years despite the pandemic, meaning new and existing local businesses have soaked up thousands of new workers who have flocked to the region.

About 1.17 million non-farm workers were employed in the metro area last month, according to the workforce commission. That is the most ever and is about 77,000 more than in October last year and 41,000 more than in October 2019.

There also are plenty of indications that local employers would hire even more people if they could. Online “help wanted” postings have hit record levels in recent months, and many area businesses have said they’ve been raising wages and offering bonuses in attempts to attract workers.

“The demand (from consumers for goods and services) is certainly there,” Hockenyos said. “As everybody knows, it is hard to…

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