February Job Gains Help Push Down Austin Unemployment Rate




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By Cassie McKee

Austin employers added about 6,500 new jobs in February and more than 9,500 workers found employment during the month, nudging the metro area’s unemployment rate lower, according to preliminary data released March 25 by the Texas Workforce Commission.

The jobless rate ticked down to 3.1 percent for the month, down from 3.2 percent in January, the commission said.

The improvement appeared to stem from a surge in hires during the month. The number of employed Austin residents rose by 0.9 percent, almost double the typical rate for February, and the official unemployment rolls dropped 3.4 percent, even as the labor force expanded.

Those gains stemmed in part from another month of solid job creation by local employers. The region’s leisure and hospitality sector continued to expand, adding 2,500 jobs during the month, a gain of 2.2 percent. Health care and social assistance firms added 1,600 jobs, an increase of 1.7 percent.

The strong overall job growth was slowed somewhat by an unusually slow month for Austin’s professional and business-services industries, which made some minor trims in February. Typically for the month, the sector expands payrolls about 1 percent.

Public sector job growth was also slower than the average February since 2000, according to commission data.

The commission does not immediately adjust its metro-level data to account for seasonal workforce patterns.

Seasonally adjusted data for Texas showed the statewide unemployment rate dropping to 4.4 percent in February from 4.5 percent the prior month. Nationwide, the seasonally adjusted rate held steady at 4.9 percent.

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