Austin-area unemployment rate dips to 3.2% as hiring boom continues

The unemployment rate in the Austin metro area fell to a pandemic-era low for the fifth consecutive month — coming in at 3.2% in November — as local businesses continued their scramble to hire workers amid the region’s strong economy.

It’s unclear whether rising concerns about the omicron variant of the coronavirus, first detected in Texas earlier this month, will disrupt the trend.

“Right now, I would say the biggest problem (for companies) is hiring enough people — not the prospect of omicron slowing their business,” said Jason Schenker, president of Austin-based Prestige Economics. “The job market in Austin is very, very tight right now.”

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Businesses in the Austin area added 11,800 non-farm jobs to payrolls last month, lifting the total number of people employed in the region to nearly 1.19 million — a record for the fourth straight month and the latest indication that, at least on a macro level, the local economy is fully recovered from the pandemic-induced downturn.

Austin police officer Carl Cumberbatch speaks with Vicky Li during an Austin Police Department job fair at MT Supermarket in Austin on Nov. 16. The unemployment rate in the Austin metro area fell to 3.2% in November, according to the Texas Workforce Commission.

The region’s unemployment rate, which was 3.4% in October, has fallen steadily since June after spending much of the previous 12 months in a range of about 5% to 6%, according to figures from the Texas Workforce Commission that haven’t been adjusted for seasonal factors.

The jobless rate remains above its 2.5% level in November 2019, before the pandemic. But it has improved significantly after shooting up to 11.8% in April 2020, when the shock of the coronavirus first slammed the economy statewide and nationally and triggered huge numbers of job cuts.