Dallas Fed: Austin's Economy Expanding at 'Solid Pace'

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Dallas Fed: Austin's Economy Expanding at 'Solid Pace'

(Credit: Dallas Federal Reserve)

The Austin economy grew at a solid pace in April, according to the latest report from the Dallas Federal Reserve.


The Austin Business-Cycle Index, as it's known, shows Austin's economy expanded by 7.4-percent in April -- well above the average of 6-percent, which is also quite high in and of itself.  The growth was spurred on by a very low unemployment rate of 2.5-percent for the month, which is the lowest it has been in the area since December of 1999, says Christopher Slijke with the Dallas Federal Reserve.

Economic growth chart

"We're seeing a continued decline in the unemployment rate in the area to very low levels," Slijke said.  "The last time we saw labor markets this tight in the Austin-metro was the tech boom of the late '90s."

Unemployment chart

However, Slijke does expect the tight labor market to cause some problems of its own.

"Even though this is something that we've seen for the last yew years, and continue to see strong job growth, we're getting to the point where there simply aren't going to be enough people to fill all of the positions that are out there."

The biggest increases for the labor market in April were seen in the construction and financial sectors.  The retail sector, though, saw a fairly sharp decline, although the reason for that is not yet clear.

Amid the growth and tightening labor market, hourly wages in the private sector have actually ticked down for three consecutive months.  Despite that, Austin's average hourly wage is more than $29, surpassing both the state and national average.  Austin wages declined 0.7-percent from the same period a year ago, whereas U.S. and Texas wages increased 3.2-percent and 1.2-percent, respectively. 

Hourly wage chart

Housing affordability, defined as the percentage of homes sold that the median-income household can afford, increased 10-percent from the fourth quarter of 2018 to the first quarter of 2019.

The metro’s median home price has continued to soften in recent months: The three-month average peaked in September 2018 at $312,975 and stood at $303,562 in March. That compares with $237,575 in the state in March.

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