Austin’s job market keeps churning in August

The Central Texas job market continued to churn along in August, maintaining its healthy pace of annual payroll growth and helping the area’s jobless rate hold steady.

The jobless rate for the Austin metro area held steady at 3.5 percent during the month, according to data Friday from the Texas Workforce Commission. Among Texas metro areas, only Amarillo posted a lower jobless rate at 3.4 percent.

But there were some lowlights in Friday’s report as well. Local data shows that the region did lose jobs on a month-over-month basis, which is somewhat unusual for August. For the month, the metro area saw its job creation rate fall by one-half of a percent, or 4,700 jobs, the data show.

Those monthly declines were driven by drops in employment for government, education and health services sector and leisure and hospitality sectors, which saw a combined drop of 4,700 jobs. The financial services sector also saw a monthly decline of 700 jobs last month.

But those monthly losses were buoyed by gains in construction, information services and professional and business services, the report shows.

On an annual basis, the picture looks brighter for the Austin region.

Central Texas employers had 30,000 more people on their payrolls in August compared to the same month last year, a 3.2 percent annual growth rate. Austin-area construction payrolls expanded by 6,900 jobs during that period, the data shows, and have now grown 12.3 percent since August 2015. Unsurprisingly given Austin’s population boom, that industry has seen the fastest job growth over the 12-month span.

The area’ professional and business services sector has added 6,800 jobs on an annual basis, a 4.2 percent growth rate over the past 12 months.

Only a handful of sectors, such as manufacturing, posted declines on an annual basis.

For Texas as a whole, the workforce commission remains optimistic on the job picture. While the agency doesn’t immediately release seasonally adjusted jobless rates for metro areas, it said the statewide seasonally adjusted employment rate held at 4.7 percent in August.

That’s up slightly from 4.6 percent in July, but remained below the national rate of 4.9 percent.

The state also said it has added jobs at a 1.6 percent growth rate over the last year, representing the addition of nearly 200,000 jobs since August 2015.

“Texas employers added 190,600 jobs over the past year, with the diversity of our economy highlighted by nine out of 11 industries adding jobs,” commission chairman Andres Alcantar said in a statement.

In its report Friday, the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas said in its Texas Employment Forecast that the state could see a 1.2 percent annual job growth rate for 2016, suggesting that 138,200 jobs could be added statewide this year.

That’s an increase from the bank’s estimate last month of a 0.8 percent annual job growth rate.

“The recent pickup in job growth and the slight upward revision to the leading index continue to suggest that Texas will finish the second half of the year much stronger than the first,” said Keith Phillips, assistant vice president and senior economist at the Dallas Fed. “Since reaching a trough in March, jobs have grown at an annualized pace of 2.0 percent, and the forecast suggests a similar healthy rate of growth for the remainder of the year.”

Phillips went on to say that while the state was hit hard at the start of the year thanks to declines in the energy sector, the Texas job market has seen a positive rebound since.

“Overall, broad indicators of the Texas economy show that, while declines in oil prices and expectations of further declines hit the Texas economy hard in the first quarter of the year, the economy has improved since then,” Phillips said. “With the stabilization of the energy sector in the second and third quarters, the economy is expected to continue to improve in the months ahead.”

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