This post may not be popular with some people, however people need to know Austin is not immune from the current economic downturn. Normally I wake up and read the Austin American Statesman newspaper with my coffee. Today's headline gave me a shock. The front page headline read Austins job-less rate is now at a five year high. The Texas Workforce Commission just released the dreaded news this Thursday. Historically our unemployment rate has been somewhere around three percent. Right now it has shot up to about six and a half percent. We have not seen numbers like this in a very long time.
Competition for jobs in Austin has always been stiff. In our town the guy running the cash register at the local stop'n'rob probably has his Bachelors degree. People like our quality of life and want to stay long after they graduate from UT or Saint Edwards University.
When I came to Austin over 20 years ago I took a serious pay cut. I was working as an Office Administrator for a group of doctors in the Houston Medical Center and I made $16.50 and hour with loads of benefits. The job I took when I came to Austin paid $9 per hour with zero benefits. So that was a big financial loss for me, but at 20 I was willing to make the sacrifice. At that time, my new boss told me he had about 100 applicants for my position. The last office job I had was for an Environmental Consulting company as the Office Manager. When I was hired seven years ago, my boss told me that he received over 200 resumes. I can only imagine that these numbers would be even higher now. So competition for jobs is very feirce in Austin. Given present job conditions in Austin I don't know if I would do it again.
There are a number of companies that have gone under or filed bankruptcy in Austin and around the country. This affects everyone, everywhere. Many of the Austin area's major employers hire temporary or contract workers. When things get tough they release them or don't re-new their contracts. These lost jobs never show up in the news, as they are not permanent jobs and therefore somehow they don't count. These people are the great un-counted workforce that goes un-noticed.
In my business I am surrounded by people that are self employed: Realtors, transaction coordinators, home stagers, home cleaning services, lawn services, photographers, etc. Many of these people have left the business, because there is not enough work to support them any longer. I know one person that has been actively seeking a job for the last five months with no success. She is a very bright person, a self-starter, a good education, a great personality and a determination to get things done with a sense of perfection. The fact that this woman can't find a new job stuns me. She is now contemplating leaving Austin in search of a job.
One of the things that scares me is all the people moving here thinking we have tons of jobs for everyone. Personally I have noticed in the last year the Employment section of the newspaper go from 4-7 pages to maybe one or two. In a city the size of Austin I think that is unusual and worth noting. So my advice is if you come to Austin have the job lined up and locked in first. Don't risk your family's well being on the assumption that because you got a job easily in some other city that it will be easy here. The bottom line is be smart, be informed and be prepared.