After trending around 7.0 percent annually from 2009-2011, the Austin unemployment rate fell to 6.1 percent in February 2012. Austin’s February unemployment rate is 2.1 percentage points below the March national rate of 8.2 percent. The drop in unemployment is driven by an estimated 6.2 percent annualized growth rate in jobs over the first quarter of the year. Most of the jobs gain through February has been concentrated in the service sector. Although Austin’s high proportion of government jobs leaves it vulnerable to job losses stemming from federal budget cuts and state and local government tightening, government jobs have held up well thus far in 2012. Over the first two months of the year state and local government payrolls expanded by 1,500 jobs. Sluggish semiconductor sales over the first two months of the year may have damped hiring in the local tech sector, which was a bright spot in the local economy over the course of 2011.
Although Austin’s income growth trailed that of the nation for much of the most recent recession, Austin incomes rebounded in 2011, outperforming annual U.S. growth by 2.6 percent. Nominal 2011 income growth in Austin was 7.7 percent over 2010, compared to a national rate of 5.1 percent. As payroll job growth likewise bounces back in Austin, the metro area should see 2012 income growth of around 5 percent, about 1.5 percent higher than the national forecast.
The Austin housing market emerged from the Great Recession relatively unscathed, with 2011 home prices declining less than one percent, compared to a 4.3 percent national decline over the same period. Notably, multifamily construction spiked in January and February, up 57 percent over the same period a year ago. Single-family construction is up 29 percent year-over-year through February. Although these numbers tend to be volatile, Austin housing starts seem poised to pick up steam through 2012 and into 2013.
Click here for the complete Austin MSA Regional Economic Update for 2012Q2: Austin2012Q2.