Economic analyst: Austin economy still strong, but growth has tapered off heading into 2020

Sarah House, a Wells Fargo Securities senior economist and director, speaks at the Austin Chamber of Commerce's annual economic outlook, held Dec. 5 at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Austin. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Sarah House, a Wells Fargo Securities senior economist and director, speaks at the Austin Chamber of Commerce's annual economic outlook, held Dec. 5 at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Austin. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)

Sarah House, a Wells Fargo Securities senior economist and director, speaks at the Austin Chamber of Commerce's annual economic outlook, held Dec. 5 at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Austin. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)

Austin’s population is booming and its economy is growing, and the city’s unemployment rate is sitting near historic lows at 2.7%, according to the most recent data from the Austin Chamber of Commerce. Austin's population has experienced historic growth in recent years and according to data from the city demographer is poised to surpass 1 million residents in 2020.

At the chamber’s annual economic outlook event held Dec. 5, Sara House, a senior economist and director for Wells Fargo Securities, said while that economic growth is continuing to expand at a solid rate, it is slowing down heading into 2020.

According to data House cited from the U.S. Department of Labor and Wells Fargo Securities, Austin’s year-over-year employment growth sat around 2.5%, just above the Texas average and behind cities such as San Antonio, McAllen, Dallas and Houston.

That job growth in Austin has slowed, according to House, compared to Austin’s growth in previous years, and the slowdown has been widespread across all industries. However, she noted comparatively, the Austin and Texas economies have performed well in comparison to national peers.

During the national economy’s expansion beginning in 2009 after the most recent recession, Austin’s economy has performed about three times better than the nation’s, House said, and the Texas economy has outpaced the U.S. economy 2-to-1. According to real gross domestic product numbers for the second quarter of 2019, Texas has grown 4.5% year over year, leading the nation.


Still, House noted significant challenges for the Austin region. The tight labor market and low unemployment rate make it difficult for businesses to fill positions and find workers, and while housing permitting activity and construction has slowly increased recently, it has not done so enough to curtail affordability issues for Austin residents.

House called these problems in a growing market “enviable” because they stem from growth, but nevertheless noted they are legitimate issues presented in front of the city.

“If you’re going to have problems, these are good problems,” she said.


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