News Column

Austin Unemployment Edged Higher in December

Jan 18, 2013

Dan Zehr

Austin's unemployment rate rose in December as more area residents found themselves without jobs and companies scaled back on job creation, according to data released Friday by the Texas Workforce Commission.

Employers in the Austin metro area created a net total of just 600 new jobs during the month, the data showed, an essentially flat growth rate. Meanwhile, the number of employed Austin residents fell by more than 3,500 people in December.

While neither trend is unusual for December, according to commission data, the combination pushed the Central Texas unemployment rate to 5.0 percent for the month, up from 4.9 percent in November. That was the first increase in the local jobless rate after four consecutive months of declines.

Before adjusting for the impact of seasonal hiring trends, the statewide unemployment rate also rose in December, to 6.0 percent from 5.8 percent. However, the seasonally adjusted rate declined to 6.1 percent from 6.2 percent -- dropping for the fourth consecutive month, the workforce commission said.

The commission does not immediately release seasonally adjusted data at the local level.

As expected for the holiday shopping season, Austin-area retailers and restaurants added jobs throughout the month. Retailers added 1,200 jobs during the month, up 1.4 percent from November, while payrolls at restaurants and bars grew by roughly 3,000 jobs, a 4.1 percent increase.

Those gains were largely offset by cutbacks in the public sector. Federal, state and local governments pared payrolls during December, cutting a total of 3,000 jobs, a drop of 1.7 percent from November.

Other sectors posted mostly modest gains or losses, including construction, which had essentially flat job growth during the month.

While Austin employers added fewer jobs in December, they expanded payrolls by 34,600 jobs since December 2011, an increase of 4.3 percent. The Austin-area unemployment rate has declined from 6.1 percent at the end of 2011.

Source: (c)2013 Austin American-Statesman, Texas. Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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