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Austin Economic Indicators

Economic Indicators
October 4, 2018

Austin economic growth was moderate in August. The Austin Business-Cycle Index stabilized but was below its long-term trend. Job growth rebounded after a sharp drop in July, while the unemployment rate ticked up slightly. Recently released gross domestic product (GDP) data for 2017 show a significant expansion in Austin metro output.

Business-Cycle Index

The Austin Business-Cycle Index expanded at a 5.0 percent annualized rate in August, below the long-run average of 6.0 percent (Chart 1). August saw a sharp rebound in job growth, aiding growth in the overall index, while the unemployment rate has held at or below 3.0 percent since August 2017.

Chart 1

Labor Market

Unemployment Rate Remains Low

Austin’s unemployment rate increased slightly to 2.9 percent in August, though still below its postrecession average of 4.8 percent and a percentage point below the state and national rates (Chart 2). The metro’s labor force has expanded an annualized 2.5 percent year to date, comparable to the state’s increase.

Chart 2

Job Growth Modest

Austin employment growth was modest over the three months through August, increasing at an annualized pace of just 1.0 percent (Chart 3). Growth by sector was mixed, with health care and education services, finance and government all shedding jobs at a significant rate. Meanwhile, growth in construction and mining surged, adding nearly 1,800 jobs. Professional and business services saw a significant rebound, with a 12.5 percent rise in administrative services. Trade, hospitality and other services categories also rose at a robust pace.

Chart 3

Wages Continue to Climb

The three-month average of hourly wages in Austin increased to $29.13 in August, and the metro’s wages are 2.9 percent above year-ago levels (Chart 4). Year over year, U.S. wages rose 2.9 percent, and Texas wages increased just 2.3 percent.

Chart 4

Housing

The median home price in Austin picked up to a new high of $312,043, up 4.3 percent compared with a year ago (Chart 5). The statewide median price has increased just 1.4 percent over the same period to $232,215.

Chart 5

Inventories ticked up but remain lean at 2.6 months’ supply, while permits for new construction remain near postrecession highs.

Austin Real GDP

Austin real GDP grew 6.9 percent in 2017, nearly 2 percentage points faster than the long-term average and the fastest pace among U.S. metro areas with a population of more than 2 million (Chart 6). Growth was broad based across industries, with mining, wholesale trade and information services leading with double-digit growth.

Chart 6

NOTE: Data may not match previously published numbers due to revisions.

About Austin Economic Indicators

Questions can be addressed to Chris Slijk at christopher.slijk@dal.frb.org. Austin Economic Indicators is released on the first Thursday of every month.

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