Austin-area jobless rate jumps in August as local employers cut jobs

Austin-area employers cut jobs in August for the first time since at least 2000, sending the local unemployment rate higher, according to preliminary data from the Texas Workforce Commission.

The metro-area jobless rate rose to 3.4 percent in August from 3.2 percent the prior month, the first time Austin’s unemployment rose in an August since 2008, according to the commission.

The increase appeared to stem directly from workers losing jobs, rather than a fresh influx of new workers into the workforce. The official labor force actually contracted by 0.5 percent during the month, and the number of employed Austin resident dropped by more than 7,500, the commission said.

Austin-area employers cut 1,900 jobs during August, a decline of 0.2 percent. Since at least 2000, as far back as commission data goes, overall payrolls in Central Texas had never declined during August.

The preliminary monthly workforce data can be volatile, and the numbers often are revised upward in adjustments made each year. However, the preliminary data for August suggested employers in two key sectors of the local economy eliminated jobs during the month.

Led by cuts by local governments, public sector payrolls shrank by 2,100 positions during the month, a decline of 1.2 percent.

And companies in the professional, scientific and technical services sector – a group that includes many of Austin’s high-tech and white-collar jobs – trimmed payrolls by 1,700 jobs, a decline of 1.7 percent.

Employers in that set of professional industries now provide fewer jobs than they did at the same time last year, the commission data show.

Other sectors offset some of the losses. Education and health services firms added 1,000 jobs, and area bars and restaurants added 1,100 jobs during August.

Local manufacturers continued their resurgence, adding 600 jobs during the month. Area factories now have added 2,500 new positions over the past 12 months, an increase of 4.4 percent.

Collectively, Central Texas employers have added 21,100 jobs since August 2016, increasing aggregate payrolls 2.1 percent. If that rate holds for the entire year, it would mark the slowest job growth in Austin since the recession in 2009.

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