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Latest Jobs Figures Show More People Employed In Austin Area

Stevie Ray Vaughn in the storm
Image courtesy Stuck in Customs
Austin continues to weather the economic storm, but how many public sector jobs will disappear with state budget cuts?

The Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos area added 17,700 jobs over the last 12 months, according to statistics released this morning by the Texas Workforce Commission. But because the size of the labor force also grew, the unemployment rate actually edged upwards to 7.1 percent in November 2010 compared to 7 percent in November 2009.

The numbers also show the Austin Metropolitan Statistical Area added 2,300 jobs last month compared to October 2010.  Labor economists caution, however, not to put too much weight in those numbers because they represent small sample sizes over a short period of time, and aren't adjusted to account for seasonal shifts in the labor force.

The Texas Workforce Commission says 19,100 jobs were added to the state's economy in October and 192,100 jobs were added over the last year.  The unemployment rate increased to 8.2 percent in November from 8.1 percent in October. It's still well below the national unemployment rate of 9.8 percent.

Political observers are forecasting likely job cuts in the public sector after state lawmakers hold their legislative session early in 2011. That's because Texas is facing a budget gap that could reach $20 billion. We won't know how large the projected shortfall will be until State Comptroller Susan Combs releases her revenue estimate in January.

State agencies have already been ordered to reduce their spending for the existing 2010-2011 budget cycle by 7.5 percent. That includes public universities like Texas A&M, which the Houston Chronicle reports has cut 104 faculty positions through buyouts that equal 9 to 18 months salary.

A similar program is under way at the University of Texas at Austin. UT spokesman Don Hale said in an e-mail that 31 faculty members have agreed to leave so far. All but four are from the College of Liberal Arts, which expects to save $2.4 million a year, he said. The buyout programs are among dozens of cost-cutting initiatives at public colleges and universities across the state.

President Obama is expected to sign an $858 billion tax cut extension bill into law this afternoon after it was passed by the US House last night in a 277-148 vote.  The bill includes $57 billion in unemployment extensions, according this piece explaining how tax cuts affect you. 

The unemployed will get a 13-month extension of the deadline to file for additional unemployment benefits -- which go as high as 99 weeks in states hit hardest by job loss.

If you find yourself unemployed, you should check out information about your benefits on the Texas Workforce Commission website.

Nathan Bernier is the transportation reporter at KUT. He covers the big projects that are reshaping how we get around Austin, like the I-35 overhaul, the airport's rapid growth and the multibillion-dollar transit expansion Project Connect. He also focuses on the daily changes that affect how we walk, bike and drive around the city. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on X @KUTnathan.
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