3-minute read

Good afternoon (and happy Friday!) friends,

Although saddened not to see our friends in person, we were honored to convene for the Workforce Development Executive Council last Wednesday virtually, joined by our region’s industry, government, and education leaders. Facilitated by Mayor Steve Adler and Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe (special thanks to Sherri Fleming for joining on his behalf), we gave a first look at the state of our local talent pipeline, labor market intelligence for our key industry sectors, and data from the UT Austin Ray Marshall Center as we create shared priorities for our region’s economic recovery from COVID-19. Thank you to our facilitators, Sen. Sarah Eckhardt, Paul Fletcher at Workforce Solutions Rural Capital Area, Laura Huffman at the Austin Chamber, Colette Pierce Burnette and Wayne Knox at Huston-Tillotson University, and WFS board chair and Samsung exec Melanie Flowers for providing their insights and perspectives.

What we talked about: Specifically, we talked about and initially rolled out the components of our “plan ahead” where we announce the acceleration of a more digital approach to identifying and assisting the jobless. The Statesman’s Bob Sechler profiled the announcement.

Why we talked about it: Last week, TWC announced Austin’s August unemployment rate fell to 5.5%, representing 70,089 jobless residents in the region, down from 12.2% or 138,000 unemployed in April. We’re not out of the woods. Nationally, economists say the pace of job recovery has slowed. Locally, we experience jobless claims still much worse than pre-COVID levels. We are seeing some signs that furloughs are turning into permanent closures, especially as “face-to-face” businesses who must struggle with lagging demand and fixed costs. So we laid out how we can help jobless residents in slow-to-recover sectors quickly receive training and support to transition to those local, growing sectors – like health care, IT, and skilled trades/manufacturing.  

We laid out how we can help jobless residents in slow-to-recover sectors quickly receive training and support to transition to those local, growing sectors – like health care, IT, and skilled trades/manufacturing.  

What could (we hope) change in the next month: Earlier this week, Federal Reserve officials implored Congress to enact more fiscal stimulus to boost the speed of the recovery. With the Lost Wages Assistance program over in Texas after just six weeks, and Congress’ ability to reach a deal unclear at the time of this writing (though we understand the Administration and House Speaker Pelosi are talking and a partisan bill may be on the House floor next week), workers again face the prospect of no additional federal aid. Economists are calling for more economic aid. They say this next leg of the recovery will be much more driven by the economy’s underlying strength rather than businesses just recalling workers.

How you can learn more about our plan: 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 (more below).

In partnership, Tamara


Pandemic drives changes to Austin worker training plan

Updated for the era of social distancing, our Community Workforce Plan has undergone something of a transformation. We now have the opportunity to do more to help the region recover from the ongoing global pandemic.

  • The new part of the plan is rapid retraining in a digital environment, emphasizing safety, speed, and sufficient supports to provide pathways out of poverty for impacted workers in our community who lost jobs because of the pandemic.
    • The training, provided by post-secondary education and training partners, will give recipients the skills needed to move back to their previous industry move to more resilient industries targeted in the CWP, such as IT, healthcare, and advanced manufacturing.
  • The City of Austin and Travis County have earmarked $3.17M combined to help with the initial phase.
    • Phase 1 is being designed to provide services and technology infrastructure for several hundred local people to receive safe, high-quality training at no cost, with related support like stipends, transportation, and childcare as needed.
  • But it will take more to scale the plan up to reach enough of the thousands of additional local people who have lost jobs amid the pandemic.
    • To fund Phase 2, federal stimulus talks will need to provide workforce development and state and local funds to assist in stimulating the economy.
  • WFS will officially unveil the details of the new plan Sep 30, during our webcast event featuring state and local elected officials and many area business leaders.

What they’re saying:

  • John Hockenyos, president of Austin-based economic analysis firm TXP Inc: “What it does is give people who might have been in those (industries) other options. Demand (for workers in such sectors) may never get back to where it was, or it could take years to get back.”

Austin/Travis County by the numbers:

  • Last week, unemployment in Travis Co only decreased from 6.9% in July to 5.6% in August, representing 43,289 jobless residents. The overall Austin-Round Rock MSA rate is slightly lower at 5.5% or 70,089 jobless residents.
    • Self-employed, independent, gig, and contract workers typically ineligible for regular state unemployment are not counted in the monthly unemployment rates.
    • In August, there were 6,521 total PUA/DUA and self-employed claims in Travis Co. Between March 1 to August 31 2020, there were 52,398 unique DUA/PUA and self-employed filers.
  • Since March, areas most affected by unemployment are Pflugerville, South Austin, and South Congress zip codes. 
    • Pflugerville has one of the largest zip code populations, and has always been vulnerable to unemployment and continues to be the most impacted zip code.
  • New job postings are out there: 16,717 new job ads were posted in the Austin metro from September 1-21, 2020 (down 3,030 compared to the same period in 2019)
    • With the allowance for elective surgeries, not surprisingly, three of the top five companies with the most job openings are in the healthcare sector (Hospital Corporation of America, Ascension, Baylor Scott & White)
    • Three of the top five certifications in greatest demand are healthcare-related (RN, CPR/First Aid/AED, Basic Life Saving)
  • WFS’ Jobs Now board had more than 3,000 jobs posted since the pandemic began, from retail bank tellers to warehouse loaders to cloud-computing engineers.

WFS in the news: Last week, we were honored to help drive the conversationon Austin employment and how we’re helping connect neighbors to training, childcare, and jobs:


Survey: Half of Texas restaurants may not survive the pandemic

Half of the restaurant operators in Texas expect their businesses to close within six months without additional federal relief. Nearly as many expect their businesses will go under if current business conditions don’t improve between now and March. 

According to a new National Restaurant Association survey of Texas restaurant owners:

  • 90% said total sales in August were below what was generated in August 2019.
    • Overall sales were down 33% on average compared to the same month a year ago.
  • 73% said that their operational costs have gone up while revenue has gone down since the COVID-19 outbreak.
    • More than 70% said they don’t expect their sales to return to pre-coronavirus levels before second quarter 2019.
  • Last year, the restaurant and food service sector accounted for more than 1.3M jobs in the state. That figure is now closer to 1.1M.
    • 35% do not expect their staffing levels to return to pre-COVID levels within six months. 
    • Worse yet, nearly 20% expect they will have to lay off or furlough more workers.

Yes, and: There are 2x the number of unemployed Austinitespreviously in face-to-face food service, retail, and hospitality occupations than available jobs in this sector in a July snapshot. See breakdown ↗️


WFS posts RFQ for tech sector consulting services

WFS is seeking quotes from qualified individuals/entities to lead our staff in establishing, nurturing, and growing productive industry sector partnerships in the IT/tech sector.

  • See the full RFQ here (Deadline: Oct 22).

How you can help: Please consider responding to our request or sharing it with your colleagues. Feel free to email me with any questions.

Of note: To address a crucial need in our community, we’ve joined forces with Austin Chamber and Google to support Grow with Google, an initiative to create economic opportunities for all.

  • The Google Career Certificates program fosters opportunity for non-traditional IT workers to kickstart a technical career
    • The program is product agnostic and designed to upskill people across many sectors.
  • Employers are invited to participate in connecting with skilled candidates and growing your talent pipeline.
  • See our webinar with Austin Chamber, Google, Goodwill, and WPEngine to learn more.
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