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The Austin metro area’s unemployment rate edged down in September, dropping it below 3% for the first time in four months, according to unadjusted figures released Friday by the Texas Workforce Commission. seasonal factors.

Here are some key takeaways from the latest unemployment figures:

Economists say if you want a job, you probably have one

An unemployment rate of 2.8% is at a level widely considered to be “full employment”. This means that now is the perfect time for anyone looking to change jobs in the Austin metro area or for people moving to the area to find work.

“Just ask any employer and they’ll tell you it’s really hard to hire all the people they need,” said Jason Schenker, president of Austin-based Prestige Economics. “Employers are desperate to fill positions.”

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While no doubt cold consolation for local businesses, the extremely tight labor market is a problem they are used to.

The unemployment rate in the Austin metro area has been below 3.5% for a year now, hitting a pandemic-era low of 2.5% in April. It reached 3.1% in June and July before slipping to 3% in August.

A laggard is now a leader

The region’s renowned leisure and hospitality sector was hit hard in the early months of the coronavirus pandemic and was the slowest segment of the local economy to recover.

He roars now, though.

Austin-area leisure and hospitality businesses, including hotels, restaurants and performance venues, have hired 18,900 employees in the past 12 months, making it the top local industry for employment growth during this period.

A total of 142,800 people are now working in the sector, according to the latest figures, nearly 10,000 more than before the pandemic hit the economy in early 2020. Local hospitality-related businesses have cut about 60,000 jobs in the first weeks of the pandemic.

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Impact of the real estate slowdown?

The once-scorching housing market in the Austin metro area, which includes Travis, Williamson, Hays, Bastrop and Caldwell counties, has clearly cooled as home sales have fallen in recent months compared to the same periods l last year.

But the evidence is mixed on whether the trend is translating into a decline in the type of jobs that serve the new home construction market.

Local employment in the sector which includes construction added 1,600 jobs in September, although it remains down from the same month a year ago after losing about 1,200 jobs in August. Meanwhile, jobs for trade contractors – many of whom work on construction sites – rose by 400 last month and 600 over the past year.

Still, Schenker said the local construction sector is likely to ease eventually, a byproduct of the US Federal Reserve’s ongoing moves to raise interest rates. Indeed, higher interest rates increase the cost of borrowing money to fund new projects, he said.

“There could be a lag,” Schenker said. “But in a few months, we could see a slowdown” in both residential and commercial construction, which would be reflected in employment in the construction sector.

Local employment close to record

A total of 1.317 million people worked in the Austin metro area last month, just shy of the record 1.319 million set in March. Ten years ago, that figure was around 937,000.

The increase in the number of jobs has matched the region’s rapid population growth. The Austin metropolitan area’s population has grown from about 1.8 million in 2012 to about 2.4 million today, according to data from the US Census Bureau.

A number of big employers like Apple and Amazon have beefed up their operations in Austin during this time, and tech giants Tesla and Oracle have moved their headquarters to Austin in recent years.

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