Axios Austin

Picture of the Austin skyline.
January 24, 2022

It's Monday. Ready for another week?

โ˜‚๏ธ Today's weather: You may want to grab your umbrella before you walk out the door. Expect mostly cloudy skies with a 70% chance of rain. High near 53.

Today's newsletter is 900 words โ€” a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Austin among top metros for job growth

Data: Indeed; Chart: Baidi Wang/Axios

Austin is one of the leading metro areas in the country for job growth, per a new report from the jobs site Indeed.

The big picture: Job openings have roared back nationwide, but cities like Austin are significantly hotter than others.

Why it matters: Tracking growth across cities gives us insight into how the pandemic is changing the geography of jobs.

  • Almost all cities in the top 10 for job growth have lower costs of living than the national average, AnnElizabeth Konkel, an economist at Indeed, tells Axios.
  • The exceptions are the Austin and Phoenix metro areas, which are right around the average.

What to watch: We're still living through abnormal times, and it'll take some years after the pandemic is behind us to see if its effect on the geography of jobs lasts โ€” or if the coastal superstar cities take that growth back.

2. Local jobless rate drops to 2.9% in December

Photo: Rick Kern/Getty Images

Speaking of Austin's pandemic resiliency, the 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%.

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 of Workforce Solutions Capital Area.

By the numbers: The Austin metro area gained 80,600 jobs since December 2020.

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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3. ๐Ÿค  The Roundup: Wrangling the news

Photo illustration of the Willie Nelson statue in Austin checking the news on its phone.
Photo illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios. Photo: Rick Kern/Getty Images

๐ŸŽถ An artifact from long-ago Austin music venue Armadillo World Headquarters is now up for auction atย Sothebyโ€™s. (Austin Chronicle)

๐Ÿ’‰ The Texas Department of State Health Services launched a COVID dashboard to compare cases and deaths by vaccination status. The latest figures show that fully vaccinated Texans were 16 times more likely to avoid a COVID death. (Texas DSHS)

โš–๏ธ A Leander man was arrested Friday in Travis County by the FBI for allegedly sending threatening election-related communications to government officials on Jan. 5, 2021. (Justice.Gov)

  • "It's our duty as American Patriots to put an end to the lives of these traitors and take back our country by force," Chad Stark, 54, is alleged to have written on Craigslist.

4. Clash arises over possible Opera House revival

An overview of the property at 200 Academy Drive in Austin
An overhead view of the property at 200 Academy Drive, home to the old Austin Opera House โ€” and a parking lot. Photo courtesy of Weiss Architecture.

An old Austin blues hall is at the center of a classic neighborhood clash.

Driving the news: A proposed development just off South Congress Avenue would revive the Austin Opera House, a concert hall once owned by Willie Nelson. But the project faces stiff opposition from some neighbors, per a report in the Austin Chronicle.

The backstory: Long ago, Nelson bought the property at 200 Academy Drive, adjacent to the present-day Hotel Saint Cecilia, and transformed it in 1977 into a 1,700-capacity concert hall.

Of note: Asleep at the Wheel's "Served Live" and Stevie Ray Vaughan's "Live Alive" albums include performances from the Opry House, as it was commonly known.

But Nelson sold the property in 1988, and by 1992, its days as a venue were done.

What they're saying: "Traffic, noise, the selling of more alcohol, live music, and high density residencies with limited avenues of entry and exit is inappropriate planning for this neighborhood," Jane Thumond, a neighbor, wrote to city officials last year.

The other side: The Opera House "was one of the cornerstones of Texas music in its time," Freddy Fletcher, Nelson's nephew, told the Chronicle. "That history is really important to me, and if we don't preserve it, then shame on us."

What's next: The Austin City Council takes up the matter on Thursday.

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5. Your favorite Austin key lime pies

A photo of a plate with three pieces of pie.
Coconut cream pie from Tiny Pies (bottom), Quack's key lime pie (center) and key lime pie from Lucy's Fried Chicken (top). Photo: Nicole Cobler/Axios

Reader Mitchell Carney recently laid down for Axios Austin a delectable challenge: Determine the city's best cheesecakes and key lime pies.

  • Always game, you wrote us with your favorites.

Luke H. described the key lime at Lucy's Fried Chicken, with locations off South Congress and Burnet, as "sneaky good."

  • Nicole's opinion: Super tangy and smooth. The graham cracker crust is soft and tasty but pretty thin.

Political candidate Chito Vela and journalist Elly Dearman endorsed the key lime pie at Quack's.

  • Nicole's take: Quack's is her favorite coffee spot, and the key lime didn't disappoint. The crust is divine, and the pie was just the right blend of tangy and sweet.

Finally, Faith S. wrote in with this touching endorsement of Route 12 Filling Station in Dripping Springs.

  • It "has the best key lime pie I've had in years (since my Granny passed away in 2011 actually)!"

Flashback: Last week we scribbled up your favorite cheesecakes.

Read more

6. ๐Ÿ“ 1 map to go: Texas has few unionized workers

Note: Unionized workers are members of a labor union or similar employee association; Data: BLS ; Map: Baidi Wang/Axios

The number of wage and salary workers belonging to unions declined by nearly 241,000 people in 2021, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data out last week.

Just 3.8% of Texas workers are unionized, among the lowest rates in the country.

Have a great start of the week, y'all!