The Austin-area unemployment rate headed down in April, while the number of employed workers in the metro area headed up — a pair of good signs for the region’s job market.
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 drop in the area’s unemployment rate is common in April — it has declined from the previous month every year since 2000, according to workforce commission data, and was even lower at 2.9 percent in April 2016.
However, the reason for the drop this year was a surge in people landing new jobs, rather than any 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.
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 workforce commission. The manufacturing sector also added 600 jobs during the month, according to the workforce commission.
“Those are good numbers,” said Drew Scheberle, senior vice president at the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce. “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.”
Scheberle said he is encouraged that the metro area is showing signs of job growth that isn’t simply tied to population growth.
“When your job growth is all in education, health care and construction, that’s just tied to population growth. Here, we are having much more balanced growth so that is good,” Scheberle said. “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.”
For Texas as a whole, the stateunemployment rate held steady during April at 5 percent, the workforce commission reported, while nationwide unemployment for April was 4.4 percent.
Texas has added 258,900 jobs over the past year, according to Andres Alcantar, commission chairman.
“Texas employers continue to create jobs in the broad based Texas economy with 10 of the 11 industries expanding over the year,” Alcantar said.