Austin Economic Indicators
May 6, 2021
The Austin economy accelerated in March. The Austin Business-Cycle Index grew at a robust rate, the unemployment rate declined, and first-quarter jobs were healthy in most sectors. COVID-19 hospitalizations increased briefly in late April but have declined since. Existing-home sales rebounded in March after weakening sharply in February, and regional consumer spending continued strong.
The Austin Business-Cycle Index—a broad measure of economic activity—surged an annualized 20.1 percent in March, well above the 9.0 percent rise in February and 8.9 percent increase in January. This marked the 11th consecutive month of growth, which suggests a strong recovery in the Austin economy (Chart 1).
Unemployment Rate Declines
Austin’s unemployment rate fell to 5.1 percent in March from 5.3 percent in February (Chart 2). This is well below the state’s jobless rate of 6.9 percent and the nation’s 6.0 percent rate.
First-Quarter Job Growth Positive in Most Sectors
Austin payrolls grew an annualized 9.0 percent, or 24,000 net jobs, in first quarter 2021 (Chart 3). Job expansion was led by the leisure and hospitality sector (38.2 percent, or 8,815 jobs), followed by other services (23.5 percent, or 2,295 jobs) and construction and mining (16.8 percent, or 2,860 jobs). Two sectors contracted—government (-4.9 percent, or 2,355 jobs) and manufacturing (-4.5 percent, or 750 jobs). As of March, 92.2 percent of the 136,770 jobs lost at the onset of the pandemic in March and April 2020 have been recovered.
Consumer spending in Austin has accelerated in recent months. Except for a dip in late November 2020 and during Winter Storm Uri in mid-February, consumer spending (measured by credit and debit card spending) has surpassed January 2020 levels in Travis County, the most populous county within the Austin metro area, since late July. As of April 4, 2021, spending in the county was up a strong 30.9 percent relative to January 2020, while spending in Texas was up 9.4 percent (Chart 4).
Aside from a small increase in late April, the number of people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in Austin has trended downward since peaking at 714 on Jan. 18 (Chart 5). At the state level, the number of COVID patients hospitalized peaked at 13,977 on Jan. 17. As of May 3, 149 people were hospitalized in Austin and 2,661 in Texas.
Existing-home sales in Austin rebounded a healthy 13.4 percent in March after the sharp decline in February that was likely impacted by Winter Storm Uri (Chart 6). The state posted an 8.3 percent increase in March. In first quarter 2021, metro home sales were up 8.5 percent relative to first quarter 2020. At the state level, sales were up 11.2 percent for the same time period. The median price of homes sold in March was $427,371 in the metro, a 25.4 percent rise year over year, compared with $283,752 in Texas, an 11.1 percent increase.
NOTE: Data may not match previously published numbers due to revisions.
About Austin Economic Indicators
Questions can be addressed to Judy Teng at email@example.com. Austin Economic Indicators is released on the first Thursday of every month.