3-minute read

Good afternoon friends,

Austin has been digging out of its economic hole. On Friday, TWC announced Austin’s August unemployment rate fell to 5.5%, representing 70,089 jobless residents, with continued fewer and fewer Austinites newly out of a job. However, it’s important to note that today’s August unemployment rate is a lagging indicator, so it does not include September layoffs and permanent company closures, nor gig and self-employed workers who are typically ineligible for traditional state benefits. As we all know, facts can change quickly on the ground.

The other side: Even though we’ve partially rebounded from April and our worst-ever unemployment numbers, it’s also clear that furloughs, which started as temporary, are now becoming permanent. And with the federal Lost Wages Assistance program’s $300 per week stipend expiring after just six weeks, there is no additional assistance stipend for the jobless unless Congress and the White House act to pass an additional federal stimulus package. Though facts can change quickly on the ground, the consensus on Capitol Hill is the odds are low new stimulus will get signed before November 3 election day. Without an appropriation to continue the stipend, the demand for WFS services — job matching and training support — is expected to surge.

Even though we’ve partially rebounded from April and our worst-ever unemployment numbers, it’s also clear that furloughs, which started as temporary, are now becoming permanent.

The bright side: As employers in struggling sectors can no longer keep their businesses afloat, WFS is here to help people in a struggling sector get the supports they need to train into other growing sectors. And amid uncertainty at the federal level, praises are due to Gov. Abbott and our friends at the Texas Workforce Commission for being one of the first states to ask for and then swiftly delivering that $300 per week stipend to our jobless. Some of my peers told me their states have yet to issue the stipends to impacted workers. We spoke to some local claimants that began receiving their first week of the enhanced benefits promptly. Many claimants have actually received all six weeks of benefits at this point. 

I hope you’ll join us on Sep 30 for our annual Community Workforce Plan event, The Plan Ahead: Preparing Austin’s Workforce Out of the Pandemic, sponsored by Texas Mutual. We’ll provide a crisp look at our community’s progress toward accomplishing our goal to move 10,000 people out of poverty through training, our regional response to the spike of joblessness in the current pandemic, and how business and government leaders can help Central Texans prepare for the present and the immediate future. We have amazing speakers (see our full list here), including Gov. Greg Abbott, Senator Sarah Eckhardt, Texas Workforce Commission Chair Bryan Daniel, Texas Workforce Commissioner Demerson, Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe, Austin Mayor Steve Adler, and many more state and local leaders.

In partnership, Tamara


Austin unemployment rate falls to 5.5% in August 2020, but job postings continue to lag behind 2019 levels

Good news: According to the latest figures released by TWC on 9/18, the unemployment rate for Texas (7%) is below the national unemployment rate (8.5%).

  • August unemployment in the Capital Area/Travis Co decreased from 6.9% in July to 5.6% in August, representing 43,289 jobless residents. 
  • The overall August Austin-Round Rock MSA rate is slightly lower at 5.5% or 70,089 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 the monthly unemployment rates.
  • Read more in our Newsroom.

Austin/Travis County by the numbers:

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

  • While unemployment improved, new unemployment claims rose slightly from July, with 9,419 (+246)approved claims in August 2020.
  • Fewer jobs are available than a year ago:
    • 24,260 new job ads were posted in Austin MSA in August 2020 (-7,759 from August 2019).
    • There was a 20.3% decline in new job postings when comparing the first week of August with the second week of September.
    • Compared to pre-COVID January 2020, job postings are down 36.1% in the second week of September.
    • 10,860 new job ads were posted in Austin MSA from September 1-13, 2020 (-175 compared to the same period in 2019).
  • Job openings are wide-ranging:
    • The region’s top hiring occupation groups in August were in IT (3,255),  sales and related (2,809), management (2,778), office and admin support (2,474), and healthcare practitioners and technical (1,682).
    • Top hiring companies were Ascension Seton (381), UT (210), IBM (198), Amazon (174), and Hospital Corporation of America (170).
  • 3,000+ positions have been posted to WFS’ Jobs Now board since the pandemic began, from retail bank tellers to warehouse loaders to cloud-computing engineers. We verify these are open positions with local companies that are ready to hire.
  • 5 workforce boards (Capital Area, Rural Capital, Alamo, Central Texas, and Heart of Texas) are banding together to host Hiring Red, White & You: Warrior Welcome Central Texasthe largest virtual hiring experience for veterans in the state.


Of the 145k unemployment claimants in Travis Co from March to August, “face-to-face” hospitality and accommodation workers are more likely to still be unemployed

WFS recently completed an analysis to see how many laid-off workers from different occupational backgrounds have been re-employed after applying for jobless benefits. WFS is actively looking at unemployment benefits trends to better connect low-income and jobless Austinites to rapid training into high-growth industries, in higher-paying jobs.

  • Since the first week of March to the last week of August, there have been over 145,000 new unemployment claims in Travis Co.
  • As of August 30, 34% of claimants, or about 50,000 individuals, have been verified as returned to work.
  • Of those assumed to still be out of work, 70% were previously in food service occupations, 66% in retail, and 74% in personal care occupations.


How WFS, ACC, and CBOs are helping Central Texans get back to work through rapid training

To help rapidly re-employ the unemployed, ACC is slashing tuition for several programs related to the area’s highest-demand sectors, including health care, IT, and skilled trades.

  • ACC recently announced 12 fast track programs that allow students to enroll at a 50% discount. 
    • ACC’s fast track training pathways include phlebotomy, accounting and bookkeeping, certified production technician, and more. 
    • Most of these courses take 3 months or less to complete.
  • ACC is also working with us and Workforce Solutions Rural Capital Area to link students with available jobs.
  • Read more about ACC’s fast track options here.

What they’re saying:

  • ACC Chancellor Richard Rhodes: “Cutting tuition for the most in-demand fast-track programs helps not only those who lost their jobs but also local businesses and industries. Our goal is to rebuild our community and relieve some of the pressures students are facing.”
  • Hear Chancellor Rhodes speak on ACC’s commitment to the Community Workforce Plan at The Plan Ahead: Preparing Austin’s Workforce Out of the Pandemic on Sep 30.

Yes, but: According to Strada Education, fewer than 1 in 3 American adults without degrees say they understand available career pathways, valuable skills, and details about potential education programs “very well.”

  • In response, we have big news coming. Please tune in to our Sep 30 event to learn more!
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