Jan 24, 2022 - Business

Local jobless rate drops to 2.9% as metro job growth booms

Data: Indeed; Chart: Baidi Wang/Axios

The Austin metro area's unemployment rate dropped from 3.2% in November to 2.9% in December, per the latest figures from the Texas Workforce Commission.

Why it matters: Unemployment levels spiked because of COVID, hovering between 5% and 6% through June 2021, but the December figures are the latest sign that the local economy has recovered from those pandemic pains.

  • The latest figure remains below Texas' jobless rate of 4.3% and below the national unemployment rate of 3.7%.
  • Plus, Austin is one of the leading metro areas in the country for job growth, per a new report from the jobs site Indeed.

What they're saying: The Austin area is bouncing back with a tightening labor market and growing demand from employers for workers, according to Tamara Atkinson, CEO at Workforce Solutions Capital Area.

  • "Although the Omicron variant clouds the recovery's path and the labor market remains tight, Austin is nearing pre-pandemic unemployment levels, and job growth is booming," Atkinson said.

By the numbers: The Austin metro added 2,700 jobs from November to December, and the region has experienced an annual growth rate of 7.3%, or a collective gain of 80,600 jobs since December 2020.

  • The leisure and hospitality industry has experienced the greatest regional job growth over the last 12 months, with an increase of 17.8%.

Yes, but: Inequities at least in part stemming from the pandemic remain.

  • Nearly 70% of unemployment benefits claimants in Travis County since March 2020 have less than an associate's degree, and those claimants are disproportionately people of color, Workforce Solutions Capital Area found.
  • "While high-skill workers in our region's most in-demand sectors have enjoyed a wealth of job opportunities and financial gains, even amid COVID, these advantages have not been experienced by everyone in our community, particularly those with less education and people of color," Atkinson said.
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