4-minute read

Good afternoon Austin friends,

TWC estimates the Austin-area unemployment rate dropped in December 2020, despite a surge in coronavirus cases, bringing unemployment to its lowest point since the pandemic first struck the region (more below). However, official local unemployment is still over 2x pre-pandemic levels, and it’s unclear how many have temporarily stopped looking for work.­­­­­­

These are scary times for many, but there is hope on the horizon. We hope Austin and Travis County residents understand our local job market has changed enormously. But job opportunities in healthcare, manufacturing, skilled trades, and IT exist all over our region for those who have the required skills to obtain them. For our neighbors who want or need to make a career change in line with these new realities, Workforce Solutions is here to help with free career assessments, advice, creating a new Action Plan, or connecting with training providers and support services. You can refer your constituents to contact us here.  

What’s happening in our Austin metro job market:

  • We are reaching out to 39,000+ jobless Travis County residents via earned media, email, and digital media to rapidly link them to a diverse range of fast-track, no-cost training programs in Phase 1 of the RE:WorkNOW initiative. (more below).
  • Austin-area companies are still hiring and posting new open positions, although fewer new postings than a year ago. (more below)
  • Our board members provide their insights into ‘what they are watching’ in 2021’s local labor market. (more below)
  • Our friends at Pflugerville Community Development Corporation have been awarded the 2021 Community Impact Award from Trade and Industry Development Magazine for recruitment of the Amazon bulk fulfillment center. 
  • Making its mark in Central Texas, Amazon is investing $250M in Pflugerville, bringing 1,000 new full-time jobs and building a 3.8 million-square-foot fulfillment center that is marking a new chapter for the city’s economic landscape.

📅 We were honored to cohost Pflugerville ISD’s “8th Grade Invasion” earlier this month,a district-wide event for students to learn about high school career/technical education pathways and get info on the different endorsements they must select before entering high school. Along with raising awareness of technical education pathways for students, we shared our virtual platform with the district to allow for a large-scale event. After only one hour of going live, over 1,000 students had accessed the platform! Our next event will be with Austin ISD’s 8th graders on February 3.

In partnership, Tamara.


Austin unemployment rate drops to 5.1% in December 2020, as job postings continue to lag behind 2019 levels

Good news: According to the latest figures released by the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) today, the unemployment rate for Texas (7.1%)improved,althoughabove the national unemployment rate (6.5%).

  • December unemployment in the Capital Area/Travis Co dropped from 5.9% in November to 5.1% in December, representing 39,116 jobless residents.
  • The overall December Austin-Round Rock MSA rate is at 5.1% or 65,047 jobless residents.
  • Of note: Self-employed, independent, gig, and contract workers typically ineligible for regular state unemployment (e.g., PUA claimants) are not counted in these monthly tallies.
  • Read more in our Newsroom.

Of note: About 23% of the Austin metro’s unemployed residents were previously in face-to-face food-service, retail, and personal care jobs, according to Burning Glass Labor Insight.

Austin/Travis County by the numbers:

Non-traditional claimants typically ineligible for unemployment benefits are represented in the below data.

  • New unemployment claims increased from November, with 5,148 (+295)approved claims in December 2020.
  • Jobs are still being posted, but fewer are available than a year ago:
    • 20,173 new job ads were posted in Austin MSA in December 2020 (-4,443 from December 2019).
    • 10,460 new job ads were posted in Austin MSA for the first half of January 2020 (-1,996 compared to the same period in 2019).
  • Job openings are wide-ranging:
    • In December, the region’s top hiring occupation groups were in IT (2,297), management (2,476), healthcare practitioners and technical (2,224), sales and related (2,161),and office and administrative support (1,883).
    • Top hiring companies were Baylor Scott and White (351), Ascension Health (314), Hospital Corporation of America (244), University of Texas (191)and IBM (188).
    • Top occupations in the most in-demand sectors, targeted in Austin’s Community Workforce Plan, were registered nurses (737), software developers (543), heavy and tractor trailer drivers (209),  general maintenance and repair workers (179), and management analysts (137).
  • 6 job fairs held by WFS in November, attended by 640 job seekers and 73 employers promoting345 real-time job openings.


📈 Progress Report: Strong employment outcomes through RE:WorkNOW rapid training program

More good news: While Austin metro unemployment is still 2x pre-pandemic levels, we see strong employment outcomesthrough our RE:WorkNOW rapid training program model.

  • Thanks to financial backing from the City of Austin and Travis County, our community is an early adopter of a rapid training program launched in October. 
  • In Phase 1, RE:WorkNOW will connect 260 sidelined workers to high-growth, high-pay jobs fast, at no cost, with a modest weekly stipend.

RE:WorkNOW by the numbers: In the first 100 days,

  • 548 have created Action Plans to reskill;
  • 98 are still in training;
  • 18 are program graduates; and
  • Of these, 13 have already found employment in in-demand industries through Workforce Solutions Capital Area placement supports. 

RE:WorkNOW key employment outcomes:

  • Each program graduate’s newly acquired job is within their area of training, including skilled trades, advanced manufacturing, and healthcare.
  • The average new wage for RE:WorkNOW graduates that have found employment is $14.59/hour or $30,34/year.
  • The immediate wage increase for employed completers is 100%.
    • Every training graduate who found employment was unemployed before they entered the program.

The highest wage earner is an electrical training completer (and a class of 2020 high school graduate) hired at Beckett Electrical with an annual wage of $36,400.

  • Read more about his journey through RE:WorkNOW here.


What we’re watching in 2021

10-plus months into the pandemic, sectors of our local workforce are still largely rife with uncertainty. The WFS Board of Directors comprises key industry, labor, and non-profit leaders with their pulse on the local labor market. 

  • Here’s what WFS board members will be watching in the workforce and future of work as our economy continues to evolve rapidly.


  • Mark Sherry, Baylor Scott & White: “I’m watching first-year turnover and/if there’s a correlation to diversity, inclusion, and equity. What are factors or trends impacting turnover for a particular group during the first year of employment?”
  • Steven Brockman-Weber, Ascension: “I’m looking atthe need for skilled workers (nurses, respiratory therapist) and support staff such as nursing assistants, food workers, housekeeping, etc.”

Skilled trades and manufacturing: 

  • Leonard Aguilar, Southwest Pipe Trades Association: “In the construction industry, work is still going to continue.Construction is one of the industries that has not lost its workforce; in many cases, construction workers are in higher demand since before COVID.”
    • “There’s a need for safe job sites with proper COVID protocols to protect the workers on the job site and the family members when they go home. We need to not only protect the workers but the industry.”
    • One opportunity that we have is to try and train those that are out of work into the construction trades. The industry has an aging workforce, and this would be a great opportunity to help those transition if they choose to.”
  • Joe Cooper, Plumbers & Pipefitters Local Union 286: “A large number of construction projects will be starting, which will increase the shortage of skilled trades. All trades will be required to increase the number of workers they train at entry-level positions, as well as organize more experienced workers.”
  • Bill Imhoff, Intertech Flooring: “Finally, we are beginning to see companies moving toward more normalcy, and moving forward with projects that they have been sitting on since this pandemic began last March!”
  • John Newman, Athena Manufacturing: “I am very concerned there is going to be a tremendous shortage of manufacturing employees over the next few years. We are not able to fill our current need for employees, and it will be more stressed when Tesla opens.”


  • Eddie Chien, Luminex Corporation: “I’m watching for post-pandemic work-from-home trends and how that will impact recruiting, as well our current workforce.”
  • Steven Brockman-Weber, Ascension: “Remote work is top of mind.One thing the pandemic has taught us is how we can work differently. It also showed us the need to communicate differently and how we can support this new way of working.”
  • Bill Imhoff, Intertech Flooring: “As a commercial contractor, we are looking at the trend of corporations that have had their employees work from home. Google just announced that their employees would continue that trend through September. How will that affect the amount of commercial space utilized by these companies in the future? And will the new normal will be to continue the work-from-home trend?”
    • There is a real negative hit to a company’s culture if its employees cannot collaborate in person. Zoom just doesn’t do it!”
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