AUSTIN – Figures released by the Texas Workforce Commission today show the unemployment rate in the Austin-Round Rock MSA* decreased from 6.7% in July 2020 to 5.5% in August 2020. The 5.5% unemployment rate represented 70,089 residents seeking jobless benefits. The region’s unemployment rate remained below Texas (7%)** and national (8.5%)** rates.
The Austin-Round Rock region has experienced an annual growth rate of -2.7%, representing the collective loss of 29,800 jobs since August 2019.
Further, unemployment in the Capital Area/Travis County*** decreased from 6.7% in July 2020 to 5.6% in August 2020. The 5.6% unemployment rate represented 43,289 residents who have applied for jobless benefits. The Capital Area/Travis County unemployment rate remained above the overall Austin-Round Rock MSA rate and remained below the state of Texas and national rates.
New unemployment claims were 9,665 in August compared to 9,419 in July.
“It’s encouraging that fewer and fewer Austinites are newly out of a job. Austin has been digging out of its hole,” said Tamara Atkinson, Chief Executive Officer at Workforce Solutions Capital Area. “It’s also clear that furloughs, which started as temporary, are now becoming permanent. Employers in struggling sectors are finding it harder to keep their businesses afloat. Workforce Solutions Capital Area is here to help people in a struggling sector connect to the supports they need to train into other growing sectors.”
In every state, job postings are way down compared with 2019 levels, according to data from Indeed’s Hiring Lab, which shows Texas’ job postings down 19 percent. In August 2020, there were 24,260 new job ads posted in Austin MSA — 7,759 fewer than August 2019.
Key Points by Industry in the Austin-Round Rock MSA in August 2020:
- Monthly Increases: Professional & Business Services (5,800), followed by Education and Health Services (2,900) and Trade, Transportation & Utilities (2,100).
- Other industries that experienced a jobs increase were Government (2,100) and Leisure and Hospitality (2,000). All other industries also showed increases in employment.
- Annual Increases: Financial Activities experienced the greatest regional annual job growth with an increase of 13.1%, followed by Manufacturing (5.4%) and Mining, Logging & Construction (4.0%).
- Annual Decreases: Industries that experienced a significant decrease in regional annual job growth include Leisure & Hospitality (-23.7%), Information (-11.9%), Education & Health Services (-7.9%) and Other Services (-3.5%).
As in the previous months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the unemployed in Travis County are disproportionately persons of color, younger (ages 16 to 34), and have less education than an associate’s degree, according to data available through Burning Glass Technologies Labor Insight.
One in four jobless residents were previously in foodservice, retail, and personal care occupations.
Unemployment in Travis County has also disproportionately impacted lower-income residents. From March to August 2020, approximately 50 percent of jobless claimants in Travis County earned less than $30,000 per year when they were working. About 78 percent previously earned less than $50,000 per year.
Workforce Solutions has observed significant changes to unemployment benefits and workforce assistance:
- The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) ended the Lost Wages Assistance program (LWA), which provided an additional $300 a week to qualified unemployment claimants, at the end of the first week of September. There is no additional assistance stipend for the jobless unless Congress and the White House act to pass an additional federal stimulus package.
- With high levels of unemployment and relatively few job openings in the “face-to-face” sector, and with little uptake on rapid job training for these workers to change industries, a significant cut in take-home will begin once more for Austin’s jobless claimants.
- Without an appropriation to continue the stipend, the demand for WFS services — job matching and training support — is expected to surge.
- Amid a current four-fold increase in demand for reemployment services, the Workforce Innovation & Opportunity Act (WIOA) program — one of Workforce Solutions Capital Area’s most prominent federal funding sources — is scheduled to be reduced by 15% on October 1, 2020.
- The WIOA employment program, offered at no cost for participants, is designed to give job seekers personalized support and training needed to find a job. Funding, determined by Congressional formulas, will be cut 15.1 percent for the 2021 fiscal year.
“The expiration of the additional federal benefits increases the financial stress that Austin’s unemployed are experiencing, and we sympathize for them,” Atkinson said. “We want to assist people who lost their jobs in these and other industries, by helping them find new jobs or training to acquire new skills that qualify them for well-paying jobs in other industries.”
Workforce Solutions Capital Area’s three career centers across Austin are available by phone, email, or in-person by appointment only to serve residents and businesses impacted by economic changes caused by COVID-19.
“Workforce Solutions Capital Area connects local people to local jobs that are in-demand with high earning potential,” said Melanie Flowers, Chair of the Board of Directors for Workforce Solutions Capital Area. “We also help residents upgrade their skill sets to make them eligible for higher-skilled, higher-paying roles. This opens up their previous jobs to other workers like 2020’s high school graduates.”
Residents seeking assistance can contact us at 512.549.4967 or visit www.wfscapitalarea.com. Workforce Solutions stands with Austin and offers many resources, including:
- Jobs Now: This online tool features over 2,000 job postings for over 3,000 listings with employers across Austin and is updated daily. Job seekers can search openings at www.wfscapitalarea.com/Job-Seekers/Jobs-Now.
- Childcare assistance for Austin’s workforce. Residents returning to work who will need child care may be eligible for tuition scholarships. To begin, parents can apply online to join the childcare waitlist at http://www.wfscapitalarea.com/ChildCareServices.
- Resources for businesses. Workforce Solutions offers outplacement assistance, layoff aversion strategies, and potential financial assistance at no cost to Austin’s employers. To get started, go to www.wfscapitalarea.com/Employer-Services/COVID-19-Resources-for-Employers.
Workforce Solutions Capital Area Workforce Board is the publicly-funded workforce board for Travis County. Through strong partnerships and strategic collaborations, Workforce Solutions is leading the region’s workforce system in the development of a world-class workforce.
*The Austin-Round Rock Metropolitan Statistical Area includes Bastrop, Caldwell, Hays, Travis, and Williamson counties.
**Unemployment rates listed are not seasonally adjusted.
***The Capital Area Workforce Development Area includes Travis County.