3. Grow Austin's Economy by Investing in our Workforce, Education Systems, Entrepreneurs, and Local Businesses
The Workforce and Education Priority Program seeks to ensure Austin’s continued economic health by developing a widely skilled workforce, recruiting new businesses, retaining and growing existing businesses, and tapping into our entrepreneurial spirit. In particular, this priority program seeks to increase job opportunities for Austin residents and increase small businesses and entrepreneurship.
Workforce and Education Indicators Summary
small business growth
Too Soon to Say
ratio of jobs to households
Given the overall strength of the Austin economy, this priority program’s indicators for unemployment and small business growth track similarly well. This clearly reflects Austin accelerated economic expansion, which spans the five year period since the adoption of Imagine Austin.
Austin’s recent economic success has not yet mean prosperity for all. The market forces that accompany an economic boom and rapid population growth have exacerbated the issue of affordability for many residents and businesses in Austin.
Taken as a whole, Austin’s economy has been the envy of many cities for its exceptional workforce, small business growth, entrepreneurship, and overall healthy business climate. And yet Austin’s recent economic success has not yet mean prosperity for all. The market forces that accompany an economic boom and rapid population growth have exacerbated the issue of affordability for many residents and businesses in Austin. Questions of equity - who and how many benefit from Austin’s prosperity - have resounded through our community in recent years. If Austin is to realize the equitable prosperity envisioned in the Imagine Austin plan, then we will need to maintain a keen awareness of issues of equity and inequity in our work, and continue to create new tools and strategies to incorporate equity-focused solutions into our work.
Below you will find a detailed analysis and description of each of the Economy and Workforce indicators.
#88 ratio of jobs to households
Description: This indicator measures the jobs to households balance. It is a ratio between the total job count in a jurisdiction and the total household count, i.e., occupied housing in the same area.
Imagine Austin notes a regional mismatch between the location of residences and jobs partly as a result of lifestyle preferences, but also rising housing costs throughout the region. Prospective homeowners must “drive until they qualify” to find affordable housing that meets their needs, and many of these affordable units are found in distant subdivisions with limited transportation options.
Analysis of Results
One telling descriptive characteristic of an area’s urban form is the ratio between the total number of jobs in the area and the number of households within that same area, or more simply, the Jobs to Households Ratio (JHR). This ratio, often referred to as a measure of balance, basically communicates the spatial complexity and directionality of an area’s commuting flows.
The Imagine Austin study area had a JHR figure of 1.56 as of 2010, with 400,445 households and 625,000 total jobs. In other words, the Imagine Austin study area is “jobs rich.” The New York City borough of Manhattan possibly has the highest JHR figure in the nation at a whopping 2.75, while a place like San Jose exhibits what some practitioners might call an “inverted” JHR of .84, strongly reflective of just how suburban San Jose truly is. A simple but rough spatial surrogate for the Imagine Austin study area is Travis County and its communing flows. There are three distinctly different types of commuters who are operational on any given morning in the county: commuters who live and work in Travis County (43% - the largest share); commuters who live outside the county but work within it (38% - here’s where the big congestion problems come from); and finally, commuters who live in Travis County but work outside it (19% - this is the smallest share of commuters).
The question then is this: in what direction will the JHR for the Imagine Austin study area move? Because the Imagine Austin study area is an increasingly smaller piece of the much larger functional economic region, there is a sense that the JHR ratio will actually increase over time—trending toward a Manhattan scenario.
Although the policy directive from the Imagine Austin comprehensive plan envisions a more balanced jobs to households environment within the study area, it is difficult to see how this would happen, especially from a 2017 vantage point where population growth is now heavily suburban whilst job creation—though beginning to decentralize somewhat –is still largely concentrated within the greater urban core.
Inflow / Outflow Counts of Primary Jobs for Travis County in 2014 (all workers)
The map below was created by the U.S. Census Bureau's OnTheMap tool showing the inflow/outflow counts of primary jobs for Travis County in 2014 for all workers.
Reliable and location-specific jobs data is not readily and freely available on an annual basis.
#93 unemployment rate
Description: This indicator measures in part the prosperity of a community. The unemployment rate is the percentage of individuals ages 16 and older seeking work who are in the civilian labor force.
Austin's typically low unemployment rate attracts investment and provides opportunity to residents. However, certain sectors of the population experience higher unemployment levels. Imagine Austin calls for continued investment in our workforce, education systems, entrepreneurs, and local businesses in order to sustain and grow Austin's economy.
Analysis of Results
Unemployment has steadily decreased since the city’s most recent high in 2010. Consistent with other economic indicators for the local area, the degree of year over year gains show signs of slowing or slight reversal in the most recent years.
This indicator was calculated using seasonally adjusted figures from the Texas Workforce Commission for the first month of each year (Jan).
Data Source + Collection Cycle
#96 small business growth
Description: This indicator measures the yearly percentage change in the total number of employees working for businesses with fewer than 50 employees.
Increasing small businesses and entrepreneurship is a major goal of Imagine Austin. Small businesses are a key component of Austin's economic vitality and resiliency.
Analysis of Results
Consistent with other economic indicators for the local area, year over year growth in small business employment has continued in the years following the recession with the most recent data for 2015 showing growth at a slower rate than the previous four years.
To calculate this indicator, the average of quarterly figures for beginning of the quarter employee counts are gathered for each year for all private firms with 0-19 employees and 20-49 employees. Counts from each firm size are combined to create a figure for the average of all quarters in a given year from private employers with 0-49 employees. These totals are compared year to year to create a percentage change rate.
[ (Following Year – Previous Year) / Previous Year ]
Data Source + Collection Cycle
QWI Explorer Tool - U.S. Census Bureau, Center for Economic Studies
Data offered quarterly trailing one year
Geography Used: Texas, Austin-Round Rock MSA