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Unemployment

vision
status = better

We achieve our full potential.

We have adequate income, resources and
supports to live independent lives.

3.3% of Travis County residents were
unemployed in 2015

Indicator: Annual Unemployment rate for Travis County

Goal: Achieve healthy unemployment rate

Target: 3.5% by 2020

Key Trends: Unemployment in Travis County has steadily declined since the last recession, reaching an all time low of 3.2%. Workforce Solutions Capital Area estimates that another 2.7% of the workforce is underemployed, meaning they are discouraged from even seeking employment, are only marginally attached to the workforce, or are working part-time and would prefer to find full employment.

Significant disparities in unemployment exist when broken down by race, ethnicity and disability status. The unemployment rate for African Americans in Travis County is more than twice the rate for White residents and is higher than any other race or ethnicity.

Despite low unemployment, many residents continue to struggle to make ends meet. A CAN analysis of wage data from the Capital Area Council of Governments and estimates of what it takes to meet basic needs by the Center for Public Policy Priorities shows that 69% of all jobs created between 2005 and 2015 paid less than the hourly wage required to meet the basic needs of a family with one adult and two children.

what the data tell us

Unemployment rates in the Austin area have experienced a steady decline since their peak following the recession in 2010, remaining far below the state and national rate. In 2015, Travis County exceeded CAN’s community goal of 3.5% unemployment, by falling to 3.3%. Travis County’s unemployment rate is below the 2015 annual unemployment rate of the state and the nation, but higher than the City of Austin.

Definition: The percentage of individuals ages 16 and older seeking work who are in the civilian labor force

Data Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Local Area Unemployment Statistics

Data Considerations: This data is specific to people who are in the labor force, meaning that they are either employed or actively seeking employment. People who are not included in unemployment rate data include members of the armed forces, students, homemakers, retired workers, and discouraged workers (people who have given up their search for work).

the story behind the indicator

Based on the 2015 annual rate (not seasonally adjusted), Travis County’s unemployment rate was 3.2%. This rate has declined from a high of 6.8% in 2010. Local jurisdictions have consistently seen lower unemployment rates than the state and nation. The Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce reports that Software Developers, Applications was the occupation with the most available job openings in the Austin MSA from February 14 to March 12, 2016. The largest year-to-year increase in jobs was for the categories Computer and Mathematical, Management and Food Preparation and Serving.

The unemployment rate includes only people who are searching for, but unable to secure, employment. It excludes individuals who have become discouraged by poor job prospects and stopped searching for work, as well as anyone who chooses not to work for pay. The employment-to-population ratio, or percent employed, includes these types of individuals. Using this measure, in 2014 73% of Travis County residents between the ages 16 and 64 were employed.

Although Travis County’s overall employment picture is positive, many groups face higher unemployment than the overall population. People with disabilities have consistently higher unemployment rates than residents without a disability. Finally, the unemployment rate for Blacks is consistently higher than other groups. While both Blacks and Hispanics saw higher unemployment rates due to the recession, the Hispanic unemployment rate fell by 42%, while the Black unemployment rate has only fallen by 25%.

Significance of Indicator: A low unemployment rate indicates strong economic activity with businesses running at a high capacity. The Brookings Institution has found that unemployment causes steep reductions in family income. Rapid increases in unemployment lead to substantial increases in community poverty.

a closer look

Click on one of the titles below for more information.

» Unemployment by Race/Ethnicity

The Great Recession (2007-2009) brought higher than usual unemployment rates. Significant declines in the unemployment rate did not begin until 2011, two years after the recession ended. Even then, Black unemployment remained high for another year. While the Black unemployment rate declined from 11.8% in 2012 to 8.9% in 2014, this is only a 25% decrease in unemployment. The unemployment rate for Hispanics declined by 42%—from 10.4% to 4.9% — during the same time period. In 2015, the Black unemployment rate decreased to 6%, dropping below pre-recession levels. The 1% increase in the Hispanic unemployment rate from 2014 to 2015 is not statistically significant.

Definition: percent of individuals in the civilian labor force who are unemployed, by race and ethnicity

Data Source: Tables S2301: Employment Status and S0201: Selected Population Characteristics, American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates

Data Considerations: The American Community Survey samples 3% of the Nation’s population. Due to small sample sizes, margins of error are increased and hard to reach populations may not be accurately represented in the data. “Hispanic” is classified by the U.S. Census Bureau as an “ethnicity” and not as a “race.” The White and Black categories refer to the Non-Hispanic Population. Due to limited data available, the Asian population includes some people who also identify as Hispanic. The Hispanic category includes people of any race who identify as Hispanic. Due to small sample sizes, the estimates shown for the “Black” and “Asian” populations are considered unreliable in several years and should be interpreted with caution.

Note that the source of this unemployment data differs from CAN’s main unemployment indicator. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) unemployment estimate, which is used for the main indicator, does not provide a breakdown of employment by race and ethnicity at the county level. For an analysis by race and ethnicity, we use the American Community Survey (ACS). Another difference is that this ACS data is for 2014, while the BLS data used for the main indicator is for 2015.

» Unemployment by Educational Attainment

Unemployment rates decrease as educational attainment increases. In 2015, the unemployment rate was 7% for Travis County residents without a high school diploma compared to 3% of Travis County residents with a Bachelor’s degree or higher.

Definition: Unemployment rate (unemployed as a percent of the civilian workforce) by educational attainment

Data Source: Table B23006, Educational Attainment By Employment Status for the Population 25 to 64 Years, 2015 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates

Data Considerations: The American Community Survey samples 3% of the Nation’s population. Due to small sample sizes, margins of error are increased and hard to reach populations may not be accurately represented in the data. Note that the year and source of this unemployment data differ from CAN’s main unemployment indicator.

» Percent of Population that is Employed

The unemployment rate measures only people who are actively seeking, but unable to secure, employment. It excludes individuals who have become discouraged by poor job prospects and stopped searching for work, as well as anyone who chooses not work for pay, such as retirees or family caregivers. The percent employed measures the percent of individuals, within a given category, who are employed. Using this measure, 73% of Travis County residents between ages 16 and 64 were employed in 2014. A higher share of the working-age population is employed locally than in the state and nation. Employment levels have not yet returned to pre-recession levels.

The second graph below compares employment participation rates by race and ethnicity, with an additional break-down by gender. African Americans are the only group in which women participate in the workforce at a higher rate than men.

Definition: Employed individuals, ages 16-64, as a percent of the total population ages 25-64

Data Source: Table B23001: Sex by Age by Employment Status for the Population 16 Years and Over, American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates

Data Considerations: The American Community Survey samples 3% of the Nation’s population. Due to small sample sizes, margins of error are increased and hard to reach populations may not be accurately represented in the data. Note that the year and source of this unemployment data differ from CAN’s main unemployment indicator.

Definition: Employed individuals, ages 25-64, by sex, Race and Ethnicity, as a percent of the total population ages 25-64 for that sex, race, or ethnic group.

Data Source: Table B23002, Sex by Age by Employment Status for the Population 16 Years and Over, 2015 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates

Data Considerations: The American Community Survey samples 3% of the Nation’s population. Due to small sample sizes, margins of error are increased and hard to reach populations may not be accurately represented in the data. For 2015, there may not have been enough Asian respondents to report on. Note that the year and source of this unemployment data differ from CAN’s main unemployment indicator.

» Unemployment Rate by Disability Status

People with disabilities have much higher unemployment rates than people with no disability. In 2015, 10% of people with disabilities in Travis County were unemployed, compared to 4% of people with no disability. Overall, 48% of people with disabilities were employed, compared to 80% of people without a disability.

Definition: percent of individuals in the civilian labor force who are unemployed, by disability status

Data Source: Table B18120: Employment Status by Disability Status and Type, American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates

Data Considerations: The American Community Survey samples 3% of the Nation’s population. Due to small sample sizes, margins of error are increased and hard to reach populations may not be accurately represented in the data. Note that the year and source of this unemployment data differ from CAN’s main unemployment indicator.

» top occupations and wages

The table below shows the median annual wages for the twenty-five occupations with the largest number of employees in the 5-county Austin Metro Area in 2015. In the five occupations with the highest number of workers, the median wage was less than $28,000 per year. 129,510 people were employed in these occupations in 2015. Three of these occupations paid a median wage of $22,000 or less per year.

Definition: number employed and median annual wages, by occupation, for the 25 occupations with the highest number of workers, Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos Metropolitan Statistical Area, 2014

Data Source: Texas Workforce Commission

Data Considerations: Median annual wages are expressed in 2014 dollars. Employment and wage information represents figures for people working in a given occupational category in any industry sector.

From 2005 to 2015, 69% (154,678) of the jobs created within the Austin MSA paid less than $50,000 per year, or $25.00 per hour. The Center for Public Policy Priorities (CPPP) Family Budget Calculator estimates the hourly wages needed to meet basic living expenses, including basic needs, savings, and taxes. The calculation assumes households receive no subsidies or benefits (other than federal tax credits) and each adult works 2000 hours per year.

Based on analysis of CPPP living wage estimates and job data from the Capital Area Council of Governments:

  • 35% of the jobs created from 2005 to 2015 pay less than the hourly wage needed to support a single person living in the Austin MSA ($14.09)
  • 69% of jobs created from 2005-2015 pay less than the hourly wage needed to support a family with one adult and two kids living in the Austin MSA ($24.85)
  • 79% of jobs created from 2005-2015 pay less than the hourly wage needed to support a family with two adults and two kids living in the Austin MSA, when only one adult is working ($31.51)
  • Source: www.familybudgets.org, 2012 data, not adjusted for inflation to 2016. Hourly wage data for two-parent families is per household, not per person.

Definition: job growth by occupation’s current average annual salary. The annual salary calculation assumes someone works 2,000 hours per year. This will understate wages for people with paid vacation, but the effect is likely fairly small, because people at the low end of that wage spectrum are less likely to get paid vacation.

Data Source: Capital Area Council of Governments, EMSI Data

Data Considerations: Mean annual wages are expressed in 2015 dollars.

» map: unemployment by census tract

Although overall unemployment in the Austin Metro Area is low, certain neighborhoods have higher concentrations of unemployed residents. These areas are primarily found in Southeastern Travis County, as well as portions of Williamson, Bastrop, and Caldwell Counties.

This map shows the percentage of individuals in the civilian labor force who are unemployed, by Census tract

Definition: percent of individuals in the civilian labor force who are unemployed, by Census tract

Data Source: American Community Survey r 5-Year Estimates

Data Considerations: The American Community Survey samples 3% of the Nation’s population. Due to small sample sizes, margins of error are increased and hard to reach populations may not be accurately represented in the data, particularly for small geographic areas such as those shown on the map. Note that the year and source of this unemployment data differ from CAN’s main unemployment indicator.

some local efforts to improve this indicator

disproportionately impacted