Economic growth continued at a healthy clip in Travis County in the first quarter of 2019, according to new data released last week by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Among large U.S. counties with total employment of 500,000 or more, Travis County ranked second with 3.5% year-over-year (YoY) job growth in March. San Francisco was first at 3.9%. Travis County turned in its best YoY March performance in four years and extended a streak of six consecutive months at 3.5% or better. Despite signs that job growth may be slowing regionally—the metropolitan area is averaging only 2.2% YoY growth so far in 2019, according to a different survey—Travis County’s economy appears to be slightly ahead of where it was a year ago, at least according to payroll expansion. Rounding out the top five were Davidson County (Nashville) at 3.4%, Clark County (Las Vegas) at 3.1%, and Salt Lake County at 2.9%.
The average weekly wage in Travis County in the first three months of 2019 was $1,365, up 3.6% from the first quarter of 2018. That ranked in the top fifteen among large counties. San Francisco County was first at 10.2%, followed by Hamilton County (Cincinnati) at 5.9%, King County (Seattle) and Middlesex County (Boston area), at 5.4%, and Wake County (Raleigh) at 5.3%. Annualized average wages among large counties in the first quarter ranged from approximately $151,000 in New York to $45,000 in Riverside. Among large counties in Texas, Travis County’s annualized average wage of about $66,000 trailed Harris County ($75,000) and Dallas County ($70,000), but surpassed Tarrant County ($55,000) and Bexar County ($49,000).
For context, a household in Travis County with one worker earning the average weekly wage of $1,365 can afford monthly housing costs (including utilities) of $1,638. In March, the average rent in Austin, according to Rent Jungle, was $1,546 per month for all advertised units; $1,703 for two-bedroom units.
The diverging trajectories of the regional (MSA) and local (county) economies in Austin is an interesting puzzle. It could be nothing more than a data issue—the estimates generated by the survey suggesting a slowing regional economy are based on a much smaller sample. Alternatively, it could be a signal worth paying attention to, possibly indicating a turn in the business cycle or change in development patterns. We’ll find out more when new metro area data is released later this week.