Austin Economic Indicators
May 6, 2022
Growth in the Austin economy strengthened in March. The Austin Business-Cycle Index expanded at a faster pace than in February, while the unemployment rate dipped to prepandemic levels. COVID-19 hospitalizations in Austin continued to decline through April, falling to a 10-month low. March housing permits ticked up in the metro as the median home price remained near a record high. Private sector average hourly earnings continued to trend upward.
The Austin Business-Cycle Index—a broad measure of economic activity—rose an annualized 13.8 percent in March after increasing a robust 8.9 percent in February (Chart 1).
Unemployment rate falls further
Austin’s unemployment rate fell to 2.8 percent in March, the lowest level since the beginning of the pandemic (Chart 2). This is well below the state’s jobless rate of 4.4 percent and the nation’s rate of 3.6 percent. Growth in the metro labor force moderated from an annualized 8.0 percent in February to 4.9 percent in March. Labor force growth for the state was 3.5 percent and 3.1 percent for the nation.
Payroll gains positive across most sectors
Austin employment increased at a 4.0 percent annualized pace, or by 12,055 net jobs, for the three months ending in March (Chart 3). The information sector (up 13.0 percent, or 1,455 jobs) led overall growth, followed by leisure and hospitality (up 11.5 percent, or 3,569 jobs). Sectors that saw a net decline in employment include construction and mining (down 11.3 percent, or 2,239 jobs), financial activities (down 5.4 percent, or 1,043 jobs) and government (down 0.7 percent, or 335 jobs). As of March, Austin payrolls are 6.7 percent above prepandemic (February 2020) levels. Employment rose 8.7 percent year over year in December 2021.
The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Austin and Texas continued to trend downward in March and April (Chart 4). COVID-19 hospitalizations recently reached their lowest levels in Austin since late June 2021, while statewide hospitalizations reached their lowest levels since early 2020. As of May 2, 85 people in Austin and 761 in the state were hospitalized with COVID-19.
Austin housing permits expanded in March, with the five-month moving average posting a 5.3 percent increase after a 2.0 percent contraction in February (Chart 5). This compares with the state’s 4.6 percent gain in March and 2.3 percent gain in February. Compared with all-time-high levels in 2021, year-to-date housing permits were down 13.6 percent in the metro and up 9.3 percent statewide. In March, median home prices in Austin remained near their highest level and also reached a new all-time high in Texas. The median price of homes sold was $517,193 in the metro—a 12.1 percent rise year over year. The median price in the state was $338,347—a 9.9 percent jump year over year.
Private sector average hourly wages in Austin continued to grow at a solid pace in March (Chart 6). Year-over-year wages increased 6.7 percent compared with a 6.5 percent rise in Texas. Based on a three-month centered moving average, private sector average hourly wages in Austin climbed to $32, slightly above the national average of $31.63.
NOTE: Data may not match previously published numbers due to revisions.
About Austin Economic Indicators
Questions can be addressed to Mytiah Caldwell at Mytiah.Caldwell@dal.frb.org. Austin Economic Indicators is released on the first Thursday of every month.