Austin’s jobless rate dips as more people find work in April


The number of employed workers in the Austin metro area jumped by 5,400.

For Texas as a whole, the state unemployment rate held steady during April at 5 percent.

The Austin-area unemployment rate headed down in April, while the number of employed workers in the metro area headed up across a wide swath of sectors — a pair of positive signs indicating the region’s job growth isn’t merely a byproduct of a rising population.

The metro area’s jobless rate dropped to 3.2 percent in April from 3.6 percent the prior month, according to data released Friday by the Texas Workforce Commission.

A decline in the area’s unemployment rate is common in April — it has dropped from the previous month every year since 2000, according to workforce commission data, and was even lower in April 2016 at 2.9 percent. However, the reason for the drop this year was a surge in people landing new jobs, rather than changes in the size of the area’s labor force. The number of employed workers in the metro area jumped by 5,400 over March, according to workforce commission data, while the annual job growth rate remained healthy at 2.9 percent.

Drew Scheberle, senior vice president at the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, said the April job growth in numerous industries bodes well for the health of the local economy.

“When your job growth is all in education, health care and construction, that’s just tied to population growth,” Scheberle said. “Here, we are having much more balanced growth. When you look at markets like Phoenix, Miami, Las Vegas — the industries growing there were the result of the growth of the population, which is a whole lot more precarious.”

Job creation among Austin’s high-tech firms was strong in April. Professional, scientific and technical services firms, which include many of the region’s high-tech occupations, added 1,200 jobs, according to workforce commission data. The leisure and hospitality sector also added 1,000 jobs, as did the education and health sector, according to the data. The manufacturing sector added 600 jobs during the month.

According to seasonal adjustments calculated by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, the Austin-area unemployment rate dropped in April to 3.3 percent.

“Those are good numbers,” Scheberle said. “The interesting part to me is that they are more heavily weighted toward export-oriented jobs, such as manufacturing. It’s good to see that finally tick up for the month.”

Phil Willingham, who oversees the Southeast and Central Texas district for Robert Half, a global staffing firm, concurred with Scheberle that the April numbers are evidence that Austin’s job-growth engine is performing well.

“Austin is still very much a destination city for employment and still continues to attract workers to the marketplace,” Willingham said. “I do believe that Austin just continues to be a vibrant spot for jobs because of all the midsize business growth” in the city.

Locally and nationally, he said, the April numbers indicate competition among employers to attract and retain good workers is heating up.

“The unemployment rates continue to steadily fall, and the number of open positions continues to increase,” Willingham said. “It all points to a very competitive market for the employers to get the candidates” they want.

For Texas as a whole, the state unemployment rate held steady during April at 5 percent, the workforce commission reported, while nationwide unemployment for April was 4.4 percent. The statewide seasonally adjusted rate ticked up to 5 percent in April from 4.9 percent the prior month. Nationally, it dipped to 4.5 percent from 4.7 percent.

Texas has added 258,900 jobs over the past year, according to Andres Alcantar, chairman of the workforce commission.

“Texas employers continue to create jobs in the broad-based Texas economy with 10 of the 11 industries expanding over the year,” Alcantar said.

Texas was one of nine states to see significant job growth in April, according to the U.S. Labor Department.

Overall, the unemployment rate declined in 10 states in April, increased in one — Massachusetts — and held relatively stable in the other 39, according to the Labor Department.

Arkansas, Colorado and Oregon reported the lowest unemployment rates since 1976. Colorado’s rate, at 2.3 percent, was the nation’s lowest.

Across the country, employers added 211,000 jobs in March. Hiring has averaged 174,000 jobs in the past three months, close to last year’s pace. The unemployment rate has tumbled to 4.4 percent from 4.8 percent in January.

Additional material from The Associated Press.

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