Archive | CEO Update RSS feed for this section

Workforce Solutions Capital Area CEO Update (October 5-9, 2020)

9 Oct

3-minute read

Good afternoon – and happy National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM)!

This month, Workforce Solutions Capital Area celebrates the skills, talents, and contributions of workers with disabilities in the 75thanniversary of NDEAM, and the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. We hope you’ll join us in the celebration by participating in our upcoming Texas HireAbility Job Fair (more below). Also, WFS applauds Austin City Council’s creation of the Austin Economic Development Corporation, which will come online during trying times for our community as business closures mount and longtime issues, such as affordability, are exacerbated by the pandemic. (And again, special thanks to the City of Austin and Travis County for their swift response to our workforce crisis, recently funding the first phase of “Make It Now,” which will rapidly retrain at least 260 low-income Austinites who are unemployed due to COVID-19 by year-end.)

The latest:

  • Locally, IT and Healthcare have more openings than those who are jobless with relevant skills.
  • Next Friday, TWC will release September’s unemployment tally for Austin/Travis Co. We hope to see the fifth-consecutive dip in the number of unemployed in our region since Austin’s rate peaked at 12.2% or 138,000 jobless residents in April.
  • The Governor allowed for more entertainment venues to reopen to 50%, which might add local jobs.
  • 70,000 Central Texans still out of a job may go without further government supports for the rest of the year unless stimulus talks resume.
  • We remain hopeful lawmakers will come together with plans that can help those in need 1) support themselves and 2) get skills for employment in growing sectors of the economy.

Together, we will help Austinites in slow-to-recover sectors get more skills for higher wages more efficiently and effectively than we ever have.

What to expect: Economists are dialing back their forecasts for US economic growth. They expect to see more workers facing permanent layoffs and a wave of business closures. Locally, the University of Houston’s months-old study of local music venues shows many didn’t anticipate they could stay in business past October. In a recent Wall Street Journal survey, 43% of business and academic economists polled this month don’t expect the labor market to claw back until 2023 or later all the jobs lost as a result of coronavirus-related shutdowns.

Yes, but: Workforce Solutions Capital Area remains committed to our mission, now more relevant than ever, to connect local people to local jobs hiring now. We’ve laid out a plan to identify those in poverty who need help, guide them in enrolling in a rapid training program, and offer subsidized, high-quality child care and intangibles like transportation and a laptop if they need them. These are uncertain and frightening times. But together, we will get through. Together, we will help Austinites in slow-to-recover sectors get more skills for higher wages more efficiently and effectively than we ever have. 

In partnership, Tamara


1

Where are the jobs for Austin’s 70,000 unemployed residents, and in what industries?

Comparing August’s jobless talent in Austin MSA to available jobs as of August 31, we see a much larger need for talent in the high-demand Healthcare and IT sectors than hospitality jobs. We also see a pronounced need to retrain entry-level workers previously in face-to-face jobs into higher-wage jobs in growing industries.

  • IT: There were 4.2x more open job postings than jobless residents previously in this sector.
    • Top jobs: software developers (2,620), computer systems engineers (542), and computer user support specialists (476).
  • Healthcare: There were 3.1x more open job postings than jobless residents who previously worked in this sector.
    • Top jobs: RNs (1,343), nursing assistants (333), and pharmacy techs (314).
  • Skilled trades/manufacturing: There were 1.5x more unemployed people than open job postings.
    • Yes, but: Comparing the pre-pandemic month of February with August, Austin Chamber reports the metro’s manufacturing industry had the second most job gains, up 4.1% as further job growth comes with new relocation or expansion plans from companies like Tesla, US Farathane, and BAE Systems.
  • Food service, retail, and accommodation: There were 1.7x more unemployed people than open job postings.
    • Comparing February with August, the Austin metro area’s leisure and hospitality industry has experienced the worst job losses, down 24.3%.
  • See breakdown ↗️

Of note: From March to August 2020, 42% of unemployed claimants in Travis Co previously worked in food service, retail, and accommodation jobs.

  • Only 2% previously worked in IT, and 7% previously worked in Healthcare.

2

As unemployment continues strain on those with less education than college, people of color are feeling the impact more acutely

As in our previous analysis of Travis Co’s unemployed residents, August’s jobless remain disproportionately people of color, younger, those previously entry-level workers in face-to-face jobs, and those with a high school diploma or GED. 

Note:Self-employed, independent, gig, and contract workers typically ineligible for regular state unemployment (e.g., PUA claimants) are not counted in the monthly unemployment rates.

But even within the segments of the workforce hardest-hit by unemployment, persons of color are more acutely impacted.

  • Travis Co residents with less education than an associate’s degree (39.5%) are disproportionately affected compared to the labor force with this education level (29.1%). The higher the education level, the smaller the impact.
  • Black residents make up 12.8% of the August unemployed compared to 8% in the working-age population. Hispanics also have a higher share of unemployed workers compared to their labor force.
    • See breakdown ↗️
    • Of note: In August 2020, 15.5% of all jobless claimants in Travis Co were black. This share was 16.2% in July. These claimants include those not typically qualified for regular unemployment insurance like self‐employed, gig, and contract workers.

3

Tips and leads for job seekers based on national and local labor analysis

While the job market grinds toward recovery, the workforce is changing, and there are opportunities to learn marketable skills. In a new “American Graduate: Getting to Work” segment, Sabari Raja, CEO of Nepris and Board Member of Workforce Solutions Capital Area, shared local employment perspectives and leads for Central Texas job seekers looking to learn new skills and find employment in today’s workforce.

What to watch for:

  • In a few short weeks, WFS will launch Phase 1 of “Make It Now,” a rapid reskilling initiative with our education partners that updates the Austin Metro Area Community Workforce Plan for the era of social distancing.
    • Our renewed focus is on safety, speed, and sufficient supports to provide pathways out of poverty for workers in our community who lost jobs because of the pandemic.
  • ACC recently announced 12 fast track programs that allow students to enroll at a 50% discount. 
  • These pathways are in partnership with WFS’ rapid retraining plan and consist of training in phlebotomy, accounting and bookkeeping, certified production technician, and more. 
  • Most of these courses take 3 months or less to complete.  
  • To connect with employers currently hiring, job seekers can visit WFS’ Jobs Now board. New jobs are posted daily. 
    • We’ve had 3,000 positions posted since the pandemic began, from retail bank tellers to warehouse loaders to cloud-computing engineers.
    • While we suspect there are more job postings on other platforms, we verify these are open positions with local companies ready to hire.
  • Visit our Climb the Ladder Central Texas website for tools to help you take your next step, whether going into the workforce, community college, an apprenticeship, or more.

▶️ Watch the full interview here.

What else: WFS also hosts virtual job fairs regularly to connect local people with local companies hiring now. All events are free and open to the public.

  • Oct 15: Fall Forward Virtual Veterans Career Fair connects veterans and transitioning service members with government agencies and private businesses ready to hire. Share the flyer.
    • Employers can register for a free both here.
  • Oct 27: The Texas HireAbility Capital Region Job Fair connects businesses with quality employees who add value to and enhance the workforce. Share the flyer.
    • Employers can register for a free both here.
    • Of note: One in every five Americans (or at least 20% of your workforce) will face a physical or mental disability at least once in their lives.
  • Nov 5: Hiring Red, White, & You: Warrior Welcome Central Texas is our collaboration with five neighboring workforce development board areas forthe largest virtual hiring experience for veterans in the state.

How you can help:

  • Register your business for our job fairsusing the links above.Feel free to reply to this email with any questions you may have.
  • Please share these hiring events to help reach more of our local veterans and disabled workers seeking employment.

Workforce Solutions Capital Area CEO Update (September 26-October 4, 2020)

4 Oct

3-minute read

Good afternoon friends. Join me in wishing a speedy recovery to our President and First Lady.

It was an honor to be joined Wednesday by a star-studded lineup of state/local government, industry, and education leaders at “The Plan Ahead: Preparing Austin’s Workforce Out of the Pandemic,” sponsored by Texas Mutual. Over 250 live attendees got a look at our community’s progress toward accomplishing our goal to move 10,000 people out of poverty through training, our regional response to the spike of joblessness in the current pandemic, and how business and government leaders can help Central Texans prepare for the present and the immediate future (watch here ICYMI). I can’t say thank you enough to our fantastic speakers and supporters: Gov. Greg Abbott; Sen. Sarah Eckhardt; TWC Chairman Bryan Daniel and Commissioner Aaron Demerson; Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe; Mayor Steve Adler; ACC Chancellor Richard Rhodes; Texas Mutual President & CEO Rich Gergasko; and WFS Board members including Board Chair Melanie Flowers, Vice-Chair Mark Sherry, Phil Walker, and Thomas Miranda.

Where we are, nearly seven months into the pandemic: Austin (re)employment hasmade dramatic progress in the last few months of the crisis. However, unemployment and jobless claims are still much worse than pre-COVID levels. The boost that government support was providing to the incomes of many Americans has begun to fade. Substantial as the job market rebound has been, it isn’t recovering fast enough to bail out the 70,000 Central Texans out of a job due to the pandemic. But Austin is better prepared than many in our country. Our community was the first to have a strategic plan to guide our workforce development efforts even before this pandemic. And now, we’ve laid out how we can help jobless residents in slow-to-recover sectors receive rapid training and support to transition to those local, growing sectors – like health care, IT, and skilled trades/manufacturing.  

Through it all, we provided a person, a plan, and hope that together we would get through. Rest assured that no matter what, we will continue to connect local people to local jobs.

What could change soon: On Thursday, the House narrowly passed a $2.2T stimulus plan that contained another round of direct one-time payments to individuals, $600 per week federal unemployment benefits, and small business aid. However, the legislation seems to have unclear prospects for final passage. Bipartisan talks between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are expected to continue. Meanwhile, millions of Americans are out of work and struggling to afford food and rent. Without further aid to help stabilize family budgets and inject consumer spending into the economy, experts say the threat of another wave of layoffs or furloughs looms, as businesses struggle to adjust to lower demand and grapple with revenue losses. It takes compromise from the House, Senate, and White House. We are hopeful they will come together with plans that can help those in need 1) support themselves and 2) get skills for employment in growing sectors of the economy.

Looking ahead: Throughout this pandemic, Workforce Solutions Capital Area continues to connect local people to local jobs. That hasn’t changed. This is the time when our community needs WFS to serve as the hub for bringing educators and training providers, job seekers, and employers together to strengthen our region’s employment ecosystem. Since March, we have provided critical layoff aversion information and tips to dozens of businesses facing uncertain and frightening times. We answered and responded to over 40,000 phone calls and emails from impacted workers. Since June, we re-opened in person to the public and have never stopped serving our community through virtual services. Through it all, we provided a person, a plan, and hope that together we would get through. Rest assured that no matter what, we will continue to connect local people to local jobs. 

In partnership, Tamara 


1

Rapid retraining, upskilling, and more workforce investment is the best ‘Plan Ahead’ for the Austin community, region, and state

On Wednesday, workforce development, economic development, and education leaders gathered for Austin’s annual Community Workforce Plan event,“The Plan Ahead: Preparing Austin’s Workforce Out of the Pandemic.”

  • Over 250 live attendees learned about our community’s progress and commitment through Year 2 to lift Austin metro area residents out of poverty.

The headlines:

  • Before COVID, the Community Workforce Plan improved lives through career training, increased job placement, and increased wage increases.
  • Income data shows we have made substantial progress in aligning the disparate pieces of our workforce system.
  • Our goal remains the same: to move 10,000 Austinites out of poverty.
    • We will continue to check our compass and course-correct as we continue on this path.
    • Check out our CWP Year 2 Impact Reportfor the latest measurable performance highlights.
  • Since March, Austin has been digging out of its hole as fewer and fewer Austinites are newly out of a job.
  • But, but, but: It’s also clear that some furloughs, which started as temporary, are now becoming permanent.

So, what’s the ‘plan ahead’?

  • In the post-COVID workforce environment, skills are at a premium. It’s clear to us that you earn what you learn.
  • Yes, but: Many employers in our region struggle to fill critical positions that are middle-skill. These require more than a high school diploma but less than a college degree, such as an industry-recognized certificate.
    • Many residents here may have the experience or specific skills to qualify for these kinds of jobs but lack the credentials to apply.
  • This month, WFS is launching Make It Now, a rapid reskilling initiativewith our education partners.
    • Our renewed focus is on safety, speed, and sufficient supports to provide pathways out of poverty for workers in our community who lost jobs because of the pandemic.
  • Funding will be laser-focused on training that is both fast and offers good wages immediately upon graduation.
    • Thanks to the generosity of the City of Austin and Travis County, the first phase of Make It Now will serve at least 260 low-income individuals who are unemployed due to COVID-19.
    • In addition to the individuals who receive job training and employment through Make It Now, WFS is developing a technology platform with the capacity to connect thousands more to local resources and a better future.

Yes, but: It will take more to scale the plan to reach enough of the thousands of additional local people who have lost jobs amid the pandemic.

  • To fund Phase 2, federal stimulus talks will need to provide workforce development and state and local funds to assist in stimulating the economy.

What they’re saying:

  • Governor Greg Abbott: “Thank you to Workforce Solutions Capital Area for your work to connect Texans in Travis County with training and job opportunities during these difficult times… Working together, we will continue to attract even more investment, more jobs in the Austin area, and we will expand economic opportunity for every Texan.”
  • Senator Sarah Eckhardt: “As federal dollars flow through the Texas Workforce Commission and down to the local workforce boards, I just got to hand it to the locals for STEPPING UP and bringing it, making sure we don’t stop on the federal baseline of unemployment insurance, childcare, and basic workforce skills development. We go the distance on finding employers that will reach out and grab that local talent; will provide apprenticeships; will do the upskilling.”
  • TWC Chairman Bryan Daniel: “This [Make It Now] partnership with Dr. Rhodes at Austin Community College is a great model of how to effectively respond with expedited virtual skills training.”
  • TWC Commissioner Aaron Demerson: “By advancing and training our current workforce, we can fill our high demand, hard to fill roles, increase retention, and open up entry-level opportunities faster for the 50,000 unemployed that we have here in Travis County.”
  • Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe: “Travis County has provided the initial funding out of our CARES Act dollars. We were attracted to the commitment from Workforce Solutions to move at the speed of the need.”
  • City of Austin Mayor Steve Adler: “Helping families earn money through good jobs is a shared responsibility that we all have.”

How you can help:

  • Spread the word about skills training, especially for those out of work.
  • Hire from local education programs. 
  • Grow your talent from within. Invest in skills training, and know that WFS is here to help.
  • If you’re interested in learning more, let’s connect. Feel free to reply to this email.

▶️ Catch the full event and all speakers on YouTube.   


2

Workforce Solutions Capital Area recognizes companies that have invested in their employees’ professional development in inaugural Upskilling HEROES Awards

For building a higher-skilled workforce and a more competitive economy, Workforce Solutions Capital Area awarded five Austin area businesses as the first Upskilling HEROES of Central Texas.

  • This year’s awardees are American Youthworks, Arrive Logistics, Ascension Seton, Austin Western Railroad — Watco Companies, and Patient’s Premier Choice.

Why upskilling matters: With the impacts of COVID-19, many companies are dealing with layoffs and closures. Upskilling provides a pathway for long-term economic growth for individuals, industry, and the region.

  • Through the challenges of the pandemic, these five companies stepped up to maintain and enhance their workforce with upskilling strategies.

The big picture: The five companies’ decision to invest in upgrading the skills of their local workforce addresses critical hiring needs and skill gaps and creates a steady pipeline of pre-vetted talent.

  • They are collectively working to advance145 employees’ skills and invest over $400,000 to upskill their workforce.
  • This work directly contributes to the Austin Metro Area Community Workforce Plan. 

How you can help:

  • ▶️ Watch our 2020 Upskilling HEROES video to see why upskilling is vital to each company.  
  • Visit our event website to get started with upskilling, get direct assistance, and access our event resources, or shoot me an email of interest.

Workforce Solutions Capital Area CEO Update (September 19-25, 2020)

25 Sep

3-minute read

Good afternoon (and happy Friday!) friends,

Although saddened not to see our friends in person, we were honored to convene for the Workforce Development Executive Council last Wednesday virtually, joined by our region’s industry, government, and education leaders. Facilitated by Mayor Steve Adler and Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe (special thanks to Sherri Fleming for joining on his behalf), we gave a first look at the state of our local talent pipeline, labor market intelligence for our key industry sectors, and data from the UT Austin Ray Marshall Center as we create shared priorities for our region’s economic recovery from COVID-19. Thank you to our facilitators, Sen. Sarah Eckhardt, Paul Fletcher at Workforce Solutions Rural Capital Area, Laura Huffman at the Austin Chamber, Colette Pierce Burnette and Wayne Knox at Huston-Tillotson University, and WFS board chair and Samsung exec Melanie Flowers for providing their insights and perspectives.

What we talked about: Specifically, we talked about and initially rolled out the components of our “plan ahead” where we announce the acceleration of a more digital approach to identifying and assisting the jobless. The Statesman’s Bob Sechler profiled the announcement.

Why we talked about it: Last week, TWC announced Austin’s August unemployment rate fell to 5.5%, representing 70,089 jobless residents in the region, down from 12.2% or 138,000 unemployed in April. We’re not out of the woods. Nationally, economists say the pace of job recovery has slowed. Locally, we experience jobless claims still much worse than pre-COVID levels. We are seeing some signs that furloughs are turning into permanent closures, especially as “face-to-face” businesses who must struggle with lagging demand and fixed costs. So we laid out how we can help jobless residents in slow-to-recover sectors quickly receive training and support to transition to those local, growing sectors – like health care, IT, and skilled trades/manufacturing.  

We laid out how we can help jobless residents in slow-to-recover sectors quickly receive training and support to transition to those local, growing sectors – like health care, IT, and skilled trades/manufacturing.  

What could (we hope) change in the next month: Earlier this week, Federal Reserve officials implored Congress to enact more fiscal stimulus to boost the speed of the recovery. With the Lost Wages Assistance program over in Texas after just six weeks, and Congress’ ability to reach a deal unclear at the time of this writing (though we understand the Administration and House Speaker Pelosi are talking and a partisan bill may be on the House floor next week), workers again face the prospect of no additional federal aid. Economists are calling for more economic aid. They say this next leg of the recovery will be much more driven by the economy’s underlying strength rather than businesses just recalling workers.

How you can learn more about our plan: I hope you’ll join us on Sep 30 for our annual Community Workforce Plan event, The Plan Ahead: Preparing Austin’s Workforce Out of the Pandemic, sponsored by Texas Mutual. We’ll provide a crisp look at our community’s progress toward accomplishing our goal to move 10,000 people out of poverty through training, our regional response to the spike of joblessness in the current pandemic, and how business and government leaders can help Central Texans prepare for the present and the immediate future (more below).

In partnership, Tamara


1

Pandemic drives changes to Austin worker training plan

Updated for the era of social distancing, our Community Workforce Plan has undergone something of a transformation. We now have the opportunity to do more to help the region recover from the ongoing global pandemic.

  • The new part of the plan is rapid retraining in a digital environment, emphasizing safety, speed, and sufficient supports to provide pathways out of poverty for impacted workers in our community who lost jobs because of the pandemic.
    • The training, provided by post-secondary education and training partners, will give recipients the skills needed to move back to their previous industry move to more resilient industries targeted in the CWP, such as IT, healthcare, and advanced manufacturing.
  • The City of Austin and Travis County have earmarked $3.17M combined to help with the initial phase.
    • Phase 1 is being designed to provide services and technology infrastructure for several hundred local people to receive safe, high-quality training at no cost, with related support like stipends, transportation, and childcare as needed.
  • But it will take more to scale the plan up to reach enough of the thousands of additional local people who have lost jobs amid the pandemic.
    • To fund Phase 2, federal stimulus talks will need to provide workforce development and state and local funds to assist in stimulating the economy.
  • WFS will officially unveil the details of the new plan Sep 30, during our webcast event featuring state and local elected officials and many area business leaders.

What they’re saying:

  • John Hockenyos, president of Austin-based economic analysis firm TXP Inc: “What it does is give people who might have been in those (industries) other options. Demand (for workers in such sectors) may never get back to where it was, or it could take years to get back.”

Austin/Travis County by the numbers:

  • Last week, unemployment in Travis Co only decreased from 6.9% in July to 5.6% in August, representing 43,289 jobless residents. The overall Austin-Round Rock MSA rate is slightly lower at 5.5% or 70,089 jobless residents.
    • Self-employed, independent, gig, and contract workers typically ineligible for regular state unemployment are not counted in the monthly unemployment rates.
    • In August, there were 6,521 total PUA/DUA and self-employed claims in Travis Co. Between March 1 to August 31 2020, there were 52,398 unique DUA/PUA and self-employed filers.
  • Since March, areas most affected by unemployment are Pflugerville, South Austin, and South Congress zip codes. 
    • Pflugerville has one of the largest zip code populations, and has always been vulnerable to unemployment and continues to be the most impacted zip code.
  • New job postings are out there: 16,717 new job ads were posted in the Austin metro from September 1-21, 2020 (down 3,030 compared to the same period in 2019)
    • With the allowance for elective surgeries, not surprisingly, three of the top five companies with the most job openings are in the healthcare sector (Hospital Corporation of America, Ascension, Baylor Scott & White)
    • Three of the top five certifications in greatest demand are healthcare-related (RN, CPR/First Aid/AED, Basic Life Saving)
  • WFS’ Jobs Now board had more than 3,000 jobs posted since the pandemic began, from retail bank tellers to warehouse loaders to cloud-computing engineers.

WFS in the news: Last week, we were honored to help drive the conversationon Austin employment and how we’re helping connect neighbors to training, childcare, and jobs:


2

Survey: Half of Texas restaurants may not survive the pandemic

Half of the restaurant operators in Texas expect their businesses to close within six months without additional federal relief. Nearly as many expect their businesses will go under if current business conditions don’t improve between now and March. 

According to a new National Restaurant Association survey of Texas restaurant owners:

  • 90% said total sales in August were below what was generated in August 2019.
    • Overall sales were down 33% on average compared to the same month a year ago.
  • 73% said that their operational costs have gone up while revenue has gone down since the COVID-19 outbreak.
    • More than 70% said they don’t expect their sales to return to pre-coronavirus levels before second quarter 2019.
  • Last year, the restaurant and food service sector accounted for more than 1.3M jobs in the state. That figure is now closer to 1.1M.
    • 35% do not expect their staffing levels to return to pre-COVID levels within six months. 
    • Worse yet, nearly 20% expect they will have to lay off or furlough more workers.

Yes, and: There are 2x the number of unemployed Austinitespreviously in face-to-face food service, retail, and hospitality occupations than available jobs in this sector in a July snapshot. See breakdown ↗️


3

WFS posts RFQ for tech sector consulting services

WFS is seeking quotes from qualified individuals/entities to lead our staff in establishing, nurturing, and growing productive industry sector partnerships in the IT/tech sector.

  • See the full RFQ here (Deadline: Oct 22).

How you can help: Please consider responding to our request or sharing it with your colleagues. Feel free to email me with any questions.

Of note: To address a crucial need in our community, we’ve joined forces with Austin Chamber and Google to support Grow with Google, an initiative to create economic opportunities for all.

  • The Google Career Certificates program fosters opportunity for non-traditional IT workers to kickstart a technical career
    • The program is product agnostic and designed to upskill people across many sectors.
  • Employers are invited to participate in connecting with skilled candidates and growing your talent pipeline.
  • See our webinar with Austin Chamber, Google, Goodwill, and WPEngine to learn more.

Workforce Solutions Capital Area CEO Update (September 14-18, 2020)

18 Sep

3-minute read

Good afternoon friends,

Austin has been digging out of its economic hole. On Friday, TWC announced Austin’s August unemployment rate fell to 5.5%, representing 70,089 jobless residents, with continued fewer and fewer Austinites newly out of a job. However, it’s important to note that today’s August unemployment rate is a lagging indicator, so it does not include September layoffs and permanent company closures, nor gig and self-employed workers who are typically ineligible for traditional state benefits. As we all know, facts can change quickly on the ground.

The other side: Even though we’ve partially rebounded from April and our worst-ever unemployment numbers, it’s also clear that furloughs, which started as temporary, are now becoming permanent. And with the federal Lost Wages Assistance program’s $300 per week stipend expiring after just six weeks, there is no additional assistance stipend for the jobless unless Congress and the White House act to pass an additional federal stimulus package. Though facts can change quickly on the ground, the consensus on Capitol Hill is the odds are low new stimulus will get signed before November 3 election day. Without an appropriation to continue the stipend, the demand for WFS services — job matching and training support — is expected to surge.

Even though we’ve partially rebounded from April and our worst-ever unemployment numbers, it’s also clear that furloughs, which started as temporary, are now becoming permanent.

The bright side: As employers in struggling sectors can no longer keep their businesses afloat, WFS is here to help people in a struggling sector get the supports they need to train into other growing sectors. And amid uncertainty at the federal level, praises are due to Gov. Abbott and our friends at the Texas Workforce Commission for being one of the first states to ask for and then swiftly delivering that $300 per week stipend to our jobless. Some of my peers told me their states have yet to issue the stipends to impacted workers. We spoke to some local claimants that began receiving their first week of the enhanced benefits promptly. Many claimants have actually received all six weeks of benefits at this point. 

I hope you’ll join us on Sep 30 for our annual Community Workforce Plan event, The Plan Ahead: Preparing Austin’s Workforce Out of the Pandemic, sponsored by Texas Mutual. We’ll provide a crisp look at our community’s progress toward accomplishing our goal to move 10,000 people out of poverty through training, our regional response to the spike of joblessness in the current pandemic, and how business and government leaders can help Central Texans prepare for the present and the immediate future. We have amazing speakers (see our full list here), including Gov. Greg Abbott, Senator Sarah Eckhardt, Texas Workforce Commission Chair Bryan Daniel, Texas Workforce Commissioner Demerson, Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe, Austin Mayor Steve Adler, and many more state and local leaders.

In partnership, Tamara


1

Austin unemployment rate falls to 5.5% in August 2020, but job postings continue to lag behind 2019 levels

Good news: According to the latest figures released by TWC on 9/18, the unemployment rate for Texas (7%) is below the national unemployment rate (8.5%).

  • August unemployment in the Capital Area/Travis Co decreased from 6.9% in July to 5.6% in August, representing 43,289 jobless residents. 
  • The overall August Austin-Round Rock MSA rate is slightly lower at 5.5% or 70,089 jobless residents.
  • Of note: Self-employed, independent, gig, and contract workers typically ineligible for regular state unemployment (e.g., PUA claimants) are not counted in the monthly unemployment rates.
  • Read more in our Newsroom.

Austin/Travis County by the numbers:

Non-traditional claimants typically ineligible for unemployment benefits are represented in the below data.

  • While unemployment improved, new unemployment claims rose slightly from July, with 9,419 (+246)approved claims in August 2020.
  • Fewer jobs are available than a year ago:
    • 24,260 new job ads were posted in Austin MSA in August 2020 (-7,759 from August 2019).
    • There was a 20.3% decline in new job postings when comparing the first week of August with the second week of September.
    • Compared to pre-COVID January 2020, job postings are down 36.1% in the second week of September.
    • 10,860 new job ads were posted in Austin MSA from September 1-13, 2020 (-175 compared to the same period in 2019).
  • Job openings are wide-ranging:
    • The region’s top hiring occupation groups in August were in IT (3,255),  sales and related (2,809), management (2,778), office and admin support (2,474), and healthcare practitioners and technical (1,682).
    • Top hiring companies were Ascension Seton (381), UT (210), IBM (198), Amazon (174), and Hospital Corporation of America (170).
  • 3,000+ positions have been posted to WFS’ Jobs Now board since the pandemic began, from retail bank tellers to warehouse loaders to cloud-computing engineers. We verify these are open positions with local companies that are ready to hire.
  • 5 workforce boards (Capital Area, Rural Capital, Alamo, Central Texas, and Heart of Texas) are banding together to host Hiring Red, White & You: Warrior Welcome Central Texasthe largest virtual hiring experience for veterans in the state.

2

Of the 145k unemployment claimants in Travis Co from March to August, “face-to-face” hospitality and accommodation workers are more likely to still be unemployed

WFS recently completed an analysis to see how many laid-off workers from different occupational backgrounds have been re-employed after applying for jobless benefits. WFS is actively looking at unemployment benefits trends to better connect low-income and jobless Austinites to rapid training into high-growth industries, in higher-paying jobs.

  • Since the first week of March to the last week of August, there have been over 145,000 new unemployment claims in Travis Co.
  • As of August 30, 34% of claimants, or about 50,000 individuals, have been verified as returned to work.
  • Of those assumed to still be out of work, 70% were previously in food service occupations, 66% in retail, and 74% in personal care occupations.

3

How WFS, ACC, and CBOs are helping Central Texans get back to work through rapid training

To help rapidly re-employ the unemployed, ACC is slashing tuition for several programs related to the area’s highest-demand sectors, including health care, IT, and skilled trades.

  • ACC recently announced 12 fast track programs that allow students to enroll at a 50% discount. 
    • ACC’s fast track training pathways include phlebotomy, accounting and bookkeeping, certified production technician, and more. 
    • Most of these courses take 3 months or less to complete.
  • ACC is also working with us and Workforce Solutions Rural Capital Area to link students with available jobs.
  • Read more about ACC’s fast track options here.

What they’re saying:

Yes, but: According to Strada Education, fewer than 1 in 3 American adults without degrees say they understand available career pathways, valuable skills, and details about potential education programs “very well.”

  • In response, we have big news coming. Please tune in to our Sep 30 event to learn more!

Workforce Solutions Capital Area CEO Update (September 8-13, 2020)

13 Sep

3-minute read

Good afternoon Austin leaders and friends,

In July (our most recent data available), at least 50,000 Travis Co residents are on jobless benefits. Pandemic stipends of $600 per week were paid until July 25, when their authorization expired. As of September 5, the President’s additional $300 per week in pandemic or “lost wages” assistance applied for by Gov. Greg Abbott expired, unfortunately, after just six weeks. Congress and the White House have shown few signs that an additional stimulus is in our near-term future. We know that many in our community are struggling financially. Many still jobless were employed in “face-to-face” retail, accommodation, food service, and entertainment sectors in danger of longer-term or even permanent loss. Many have fears of the virus re-spreading and overall anxiety about the future. Many people are waiting for some sense of re-assurance and what they should do now. 

Due to support from the City of Austin and Travis County, I am proud that Workforce Solutions will be able to rapidly roll out our Phase 1 strategy to move several hundred jobless residents into restructured, rapid, and safe training programs to help them earn more money in the new year. This support will come in the form of a financial stipend and a la carte supports in career advising, childcare, digital inclusion, and transportation.

As of September 5, the President’s additional $300 per week in pandemic or “lost wages” assistance applied for by Gov. Greg Abbott expired, unfortunately, after just six weeks.

I hope you’ll join us on Sep 30 for our annual Community Workforce Plan event, The Plan Ahead: Preparing Austin’s Workforce Out of the Pandemic. In a time more urgent than ever, we’ll provide a crisp look at our community’s progress toward accomplishing our goal to move 10,000 people out of poverty through training, our regional response to the spike of joblessness in the current pandemic, and how business and government leaders can help Austin prepare for the present and the immediate future. State and local leaders — including Gov. Greg Abbott, Texas Workforce Commission Chairman Bryan Daniel, Senator Sarah Eckhardt, Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe, Mayor Steve Adler, and more — will also present the latest labor exchange information, innovation, and how forward-thinking policy can help us rapidly scale our Phase 1 effort (more below). 

In partnership, Tamara


1

A closer look at Travis County’s 50,485 July unemployed residents, and how people of color are disproportionately impacted

As in our preliminary analysis of June’s laid-off workers, the unemployed in July are disproportionately persons of color, younger, were previously entry-level workers in face-to-face jobs, and have a high school diploma or GED. WFS will continue to analyze unemployment and jobless claimant data to better serve and understand our community’s needs.

Note: Self-employed, independent, gig, and contract workers typically ineligible for regular state unemployment (e.g., PUA claimants) are not counted in the monthly unemployment rates.

  • Residents ages 16-34 make up over half (51.4%) of the July unemployed, compared to 30.6% of the labor force. 
  • Travis Co residents with less education than an associate’s degree (39.5%) are disproportionately affected compared to the labor force with this education level (29.1%). The higher the education level, the smaller the impact.
  • One in four unemployed Travis Co residents were previously in food service, retail, and personal care occupations.
    • 2.6% were previously in healthcare occupations.
    • 2.4% were previously in IT occupations.
  • Travis Co industries with the most June unemployment are Unknown (8,888); Retail (5,659); Professional, Scientific, and Tech (5,046); and Accommodation and Food Services (4,786).

And people of color continue to be disproportionately impacted by unemployment:

  • Black residents make up 12.8% of the July unemployed compared to 8% in the working-age population, according to Burning Glass Technologies Labor Insights.
    • See breakdown ↗️
    • Of note: In July 2020, 16.2% of all jobless claimants in Travis Co were black. These claimants include those not typically qualified for regular unemployment insurance like self‐employed, gig, and contract workers.
  • Blacks and Hispanics are more likely to have less education than their white counterparts.
    • Of the July unemployed, 48% of Blacks and 63.7% of Hispanics have a high school diploma, GED, or less, compared to 23.3% of Whites.
    • See breakdown ↗️
  • Blacks and Hispanics are more likely to have previously worked in the hardest-hit industries — Retail, Accommodation, and Food Services.
    • Of the July unemployed whose previous industry is known, 30.3% of Blacks, 27.3% of Hispanics, and 22.6% of Whites were previously in the Retail, Accommodation, and Food Services industries, regardless of occupation.
    • Roughly 25% of the July unemployed in Travis Co were previously in these industries.

2

FEMA ends $300 per week Lost Wages Assistance program after six weeks of payments

On Sep 9, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) informed TWC that the Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) program ends with the benefit week ending Sep 5, 2020. There is no additional assistance stipend for the jobless unless Congress and the White House act to pass an additional federal stimulus package.

  • LWA provided an additional $300 a week to qualified unemployment claimants, above Texas’ current unemployment benefits.
  • Because FEMA’s funds were limited, TWC cannot extend payments beyond that date without further federal action.
    • TWC will continue to pay eligible claimants for the six benefit weeks FEMA approved (from Aug 1 to Sep 5), for as long as the existing federal funds deposited to TWC remain available. 
  • The Lost Wages Assistance Program was a temporary provision established after the expiration of the $600 pandemic stipend, a part of the CARES Act.
    • Other provisions of the federal act do not expire until Dec 26, 2020. This includes Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), which provides an extra 13 weeks of benefits to those who exhaust traditional benefits, and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), which provides up to 46 weeks of benefits to those who are self-employed or typically ineligible for state benefits. 

The big picture: With high levels of unemployment and relatively few job openings in the “face-to-face” sector, and with little uptake on rapid job training for these workers to change industries, a significant cut in take-home will begin once more for Austin’s jobless claimants.

  • Without an appropriation to continue the stipend, the demand for WFS services — job matching and training support — is expected to surge.

3

How Travis County and City of Austin ‘Phase 1’ funding awarded to WFS will connect Austin’s jobless and low-income to career training, supports, and employment

Thanks to unanimous support last week from Travis County Commissioners Court and Austin City Council, WFS has secured Phase 1 funds to establish a marketing and tech infrastructure to help low-income and jobless Austinites.

  • The Phase 1-funded tech hub will allow WFS to communicate with area jobless, solicit their engagement in rapid training, and provide more closely knit training, support, and a stipend for250+ lower-income residents to transition into higher-paying, growing industry and business sector jobs.
  • The requested high-quality, no-cost, safe training funded in Phase 1 is intended to result in jobs that pay at least $35,000 – $45,000+ per year after training completion. 
    • WFS is working with ACC and CBOs to develop a list of eligible training providers who can provide rapid, safe, high-quality trainings that meet the expectations for local jobs in growing industries.
  • WFS has also designed and will resource a complimentary wrap-around, customized services approach.
    • This wrap-around approach will provide those enrolled and attending designated trainings with: 1) a stipend above state unemployment, or any future federal stipend, if eligible, and 2) training supports as needed, including transportation, childcare, digital inclusion, and career navigation and job placement support.

Yes, but: To fund Phase 2,federal stimulus talks will need to provide workforce development and state and local funds to assist in stimulating the economy.

Workforce Solutions Capital Area CEO Update (August 31-September 7, 2020)

7 Sep

2-minute read

Happy Labor Day!

Today, we honor the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country. But at least 50,000 Austinites are out of work and struggling to make ends meet, especially those in face-to-face industries like hospitality and accommodation. More urgent than ever, WFS’ role for our labor force is to lift our neighbors up, connect them to the (re)training they need, and fill the talent gaps we see in hot Community Workforce Plan industries — IT, healthcare, and skilled trades/manufacturing.

In three weeks, on September 30, WFS will host the 2020 installment of our annual Community Workforce Plan event, The Plan Ahead: Preparing Austin’s Workforce Out of the Pandemic.

In three weeks, on September 30, WFS will host the 2020 installment of our annual Community Workforce Plan event, The Plan Ahead: Preparing Austin’s Workforce Out of the Pandemic. This virtual event – open to the public – is where we look at our community’s progress toward accomplishing our goal to move 10,000 people out of poverty through training. We will look at the status of the Austin Metro Area Community Workforce Plan, our regional response to the spike of joblessness in the current pandemic, and how business and government leaders can help Austin prepare for the present and the immediate future. We’re honored to be joined by Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe and Austin Mayor Steve Adler, workforce champions who authorized Phase 1 funding for WFS to rapidly support and (re)train hundreds of Central Texans for hire at higher wages. State and local leaders will also present the latest labor exchange information, innovation, and how forward-thinking policy can help us rapidly scale our Phase 1 efforts (more below).

Although this event is virtual, be sure to register early to ensure your “seat.” Please let me know if you have any questions/comments.

In partnership, Tamara


1

Since the pandemic began in March, Austin’s unemployed Hospitality & Accommodation workers far outweigh this sector’s available jobs

Comparing jobless talent to available jobs from March 1 – July 31, we see a pronounced need to retrain entry-level workers previously in face-to-face jobs into higher-wage jobs in growing industries.

  • Food service, retail, and accommodation: There were 7x more new jobless claimants (48,423) than new job ads (6,836).

Looking at July 1-31, we still see a much larger need for talent in the high-demand Healthcare and IT sectors than hospitality jobs.

  • IT: There were 14x more new job ads than new jobless claimants previously in this sector. If you add in open positions posted before July, the difference is even more significant.
    • From March to July 2020, only 2% of unemployed claimants in Travis Co previously worked in IT.
  • Healthcare: There were6x more new job ads than new jobless claimants who previously worked in this sector.
  • Food service, retail, and accommodation: There were 1.7x more new job ads than new jobless claimants (Note: continued claims are not included in this data).

2

Despite high jobless numbers, the Austin region still has areas where we need to (re)train more skilled talent

Even in this COVID-economy, recently updated data confirms that the Austin region continues to have a current and projected need for more skilled talent in Community Workforce Plan targeted industries.

  • In a recently completed WFS labor supply analysis, we project we will need more skilled talent in IThealthcare, and skilled trades/manufacturing.
    • Although the manufacturing-related production occupations are projected to be oversupplied in the Austin region, local employers report these occupations will be in greater demand once Tesla begins hiring for their new gigafactory and hiring expands at BAE Systems.
  • Skills gaps: Based on data from January to March 2020, many skills in shortage fall within the skilled trades, except for data analysis, bilingual, and aseptic technique (preventing contamination in healthcare settings).
  • Foundational skill gaps: In 2020, nine of the top 10 in-demand skill clusters (which prepare people to enter the workforce either at an entry-level or during career changes) are IT-related and are projected to rapidly grow nationally and globally.
  • Healthcare- and IT-related skills directly tied to WFS’ targeted occupations list are projected to snowball between 2019-2021 in the region.

The big picture: To prepare Austin for the workforce of the future, the Community Workforce Plan’s focus on high-growth, in-demand career pathways (in IT, healthcare, skilled trades, and manufacturing) continues to provide a vital roadmap to improve the lives of thousands of lower-income Austinites, now and in the years to come.


3

WFS launches digital, interactive workbook for high school and middle school students to explore in-demand careers

WFS is helping middle and high school students prepare for in-demand careers. With the start of virtual school last month, we pivoted our content and materials to help local students see which local jobs are growing and which can earn them higher wages. Introducing our Explore Careers workbooks:

  • Our digital workbooks offer career exploration tools for middle and high school students to learn about career endorsements for high school and career pathways beyond graduation.
  • These workbooks direct students to online career assessments, career videos, soft skills training, resume building, and more, allowing more avenues to connect with our services.
  • The workbooks were used digitally during the spring 2020 school semester. Today, over 9,000 copies have been printed to distribute to students in local school districts.

How you can help:

  • Download our workbooks hereand please share them with your colleagues.
  • Please share climbtheladderctx.comwith those you know who are looking for their next step, whether going into the workforce, community college, an apprenticeship, or more.
  • Please shoot me a message with your feedback on the site or other resources you’d like to see.

Workforce Solutions Capital Area CEO Update (August 23-29, 2020)

29 Aug

3-minute read

Good afternoon,

As I’ve reported here over the past few months, federal funding for our critical job training programs will be cut at the same time unemployment — still more than 2.5x the pre-COVID rate — has rocked our region. Along with many at WFS, I have sounded the alarm about the additional resources needed to help our community connect to training and jobs.

I’m honored to share this good news: In the last two weeks, Austin City Council awarded WFS $1.37M, and Travis Co awarded $1.8M (effective Oct 1 and Sep 1, respectively) to help us rapidly implement our Phase 1 plan to (re)train hundreds of Central Texans for hire at higher wages. Along with gratitude for our Mayor and City Council members, a special thanks to Travis County Commissioner Jeff Travillion, a long-time workforce champion who dug into the details and worked to achieve a unanimous vote at Travis County. We will be able to do a lot of good with these Phase 1 funds — our local leaders’ trust in WFS is truly humbling. 

In the last two weeks, Austin City Council awarded WFS $1.37M, and Travis Co awarded $1.8M to help us rapidly implement our Phase 1 plan to (re)train hundreds of Central Texans for hire at higher wages.

In 2017, we first launched our strategic Community Workforce Plan. To move 10,000 people out of poverty and into good, middle-wage jobs, our community banded together to do what no other Texas Workforce Board had done before. But one of the impediments was sufficient resources. Today, these new contracts are the accelerants poured on our strategic plan, fueling our efforts toward a much more significant impact. Phase 1 funding awarded will help us complete the build-out of the infrastructure. But to fund Phase 2 (designed to yield the training enrollments to accomplish the rising targets in our plan), we need a federal stimulus that includes state/local workforce funds. We will be ready.

WFS is committed to driving our community to reach our collective workforce goals and achieve outcomes. We stand unwavering by our mission for better jobs, better services, and better lives for ALL our neighbors. We connect local people to local jobs.

In partnership, Tamara


1

The lowest-income Austinites don’t qualify for additional $300 per week pandemic stipend

TWC estimates nearly 350,000 (or 20%) of Texas jobless claimants don’t qualify for the federal $300 pandemic stipend because they either earned too little from the work they lost or didn’t indicate on their unemployment claim that they lost their jobs due to the pandemic.

  • Those earning less than $100 a week in unemployment benefits — likely lower-wage or part-time workers — are ineligible for the extra payment, as required by the Presidential Memoranda signed August 8.
    • Others aren’t eligible because they didn’t state when they filed for unemployment benefits that they lost their jobs because of the pandemic. They can qualify by making that adjustment to their filing status.
  • In July, half of the jobless claimants in Travis County earned less than $30,000 while they were working. 73% earned less than $50,000.
  • Yes, and: A recent study places Austin as the least livable city for lower-wage workers — minimum wage workers in Austin need to work 37 hours each week just to cut a rent check.
  • Of note: Texas is one of only three states to begin paying extra unemployment benefits. However, states approved for the unemployment benefit program are issued a grant for just three weeks of benefits.
    • Subsequent weeks would be approved by the Administration on a weekly basis to make sure there are enough funds for other states.
    • Analysts at the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget said the $44B the President has tapped for these payments would last only about five weeks before running out.
    • Given these Lost Wages benefits are backdated to August 1, it’s unclear how long these Texas payments can continue.

Austin/Travis County by the numbers:

  • Last week, unemployment in Travis Co decreased from 7.5% in June to 6.9% in July, representing 50,485 jobless residents. The overall Austin-Round Rock MSA rate is slightly lower at 6.7%, or 81,942 jobless residents.
    • Self-employed, independent, gig, and contract workers typically ineligible for regular state unemployment (e.g. DUA/PUA claimants) are not counted in the monthly unemployment rates.
    • In July, there were 3,536 total PUA/DUA claims in Travis Co. Between March 1 to July 31 2020, there were 35,470 unique DUA/PUA filers.
  • 19,280 new job ads were posted in Austin MSA from August 1-26, 2020 (-7,739 compared to the same period in 2019)
    • Top hiring occupation groups were in IT (2,580), retail (2,247), management (2,164), office and admin support (2,029), and healthcare (1,357).
  • WFS’ Jobs Now board had more than 2,000 job postings as of Aug. 25, from retail bank tellers to warehouse loaders to cloud-computing engineers.
  • WFS launched 3 healthcare-focused hiring initiatives with Baylor Scott & White Health, St. David’s HealthCare, and Integral Care.
    • Help us spread the word – see our upcoming job fairs and virtual info sessions here.

WFS in the news: Last week, we were honored to help drive the conversationon Austin employment and how we’re helping connect neighbors to training, childcare, and jobs:


2

WFS launches Climb the Ladder CTX for secondary students and adults seeking new careers

In time for the new school year, career-exploring students and adults can now explore high-demand occupations virtually through our new microsite at climbtheladderctx.com.

  • We made it easy to find critical resources from a single landing page, including digital workbooks, videos with industry partners, and more.
    • This microsite is a low-cost, agile way to share our resources with students who are learning virtually and job seekers who can’t visit our career centers as easily for assistance with their job search.
    • Tools for educators and employers will be added soon, with opportunities to engage with students and job seekers through career fairs, teacher externships, and more.
  • This website will plug into our rapid (re)train and (re)hire initiative, helping us better customize our supports and increase avenues to connect with our services for K-12 and adults.
  • Browse Climb the Ladder CTX to learn more about in-demand career pathways in our region and connect with our educators to learn more about the resources available to you.

How you can help:

  • Please share climbtheladderctx.com with those you know who are looking for their next step, whether going into the workforce, community college, an apprenticeship, or more.
  • Please shoot me a message with your feedback on the site or other resources you’d like to see.

What’s next:

  • Website redesign: WFS is redesigning our main website to improve user experience and content delivery. Set to launch early October.
  • Technology hub: We are actively working towards a technology solution to accommodate the thousands of clients who will seek services from us, whether jobs or education.

3

Austin’s child care providers receive cleaning supplies at no cost from Workforce Solutions Capital Area

To help area child care providers maintain safe and clean centers during the COVID-19 pandemic, our Child Care Services team held a cleaning supplies pickup event on August 21-22 at the Travis County Purchasing Warehouse.

  • Ensuring families have access to safe, quality, and affordable child care is an essential part of our work to support parents learning new skill sets to pursue a new career or return to work.
  • Child care providers have experienced dramatic changes in demand and enrollment, putting tremendous strains on their ability to stay in business.
  • 153 providers from all around the Austin metro area signed up.
  • Providers received pallet-sized orders of cleaning supplies — everything from dish soap, sanitizing wipes, gloves, paper towels, and more — at no cost.
  • We sorted and prepared thousands of pounds of supplies ahead of the pickup days—25,277 pounds, to be exact!

What they’re saying:

  • Brianna Hodges for Prodigy Child Development Center, with 83 children in care: “When I heard about this event, I was excited! My prayers have been answered. This is tremendous help. We are excited to do a deep clean and maintain health and safety.”
  • Jeannie Young for Eanes Independent School District, which has two centers with almost 85 children in care: “When we closed in March, we left on spring break and never went back. Now we are reopening, and one of our concerns was, ‘do we have enough supplies to truly operate.’ This is a really wonderful gift to make sure we start our year strong, and we have plenty of supplies to keep us going while we build up our stock.”
  • Read more here, and check out our photo gallery on Facebook.

Workforce Solutions Capital Area CEO Update (August 15-21, 2020)

22 Aug

2-minute read

Good afternoon,

There was encouraging news in the past month as we welcomed Tesla to the Capital Area, and BAE Systems announced their major expansion of operations. And, Thursday, Governor Abbott said Texas would apply for federal funding that would reinstate, retroactive to August 1, an additional $300 per week pandemic stipend to jobless Texans. While unclear how long funds for the new stipend will last (more details below), Majority Leader McConnell, Speaker Pelosi, and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin have suggested they may restart discussions of a federal stimulus. Also, Austin’s July unemployment rate fell on Friday to 6.7%. However, last month’s unemployment is still 2.5x where we were before the pandemic began in February.

The other side: On Friday, the Labor Department reported that the number of Americans filing new unemployment claims in the week ending August 15 rose by 135,000 to 1.1 million. Economists had expected the tally to continue to dip. The increase is disconcerting given there’s less incentive to file for unemployment with the expiration at the end of July of the $600 a week pandemic stipend for unemployed workers. Even with the growth in employment seen over the past few monthly jobs reports, many people remain out of work, and many businesses continue to shed jobs.

Austin’s July unemployment rate fell on Friday to 6.7%. However, last month’s unemployment is still 2.5x where we were before the pandemic began in February.

The bright side: Two weeks ago, led by Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison, with the support of Mayor Adler, Council Members Alter, Casar, Tovo, Flannigan and each member of Austin City Council – Phase 1 of Workforce Solutions’ rapid retraining plan was placed into their draft FY21 budget. Beginning October 1, this will allow Workforce Solutions to rapidly integrate our training, childcare, transportation, digital inclusion, and other providers and build out a pilot system to initially help 130 of our jobless friends and neighbors rapidly train and move into higher-paying occupations for 2021. But to fund Phase 2, federal stimulus talks will need to provide workforce development and state and local funds to assist in stimulating the economy.

Below, you’ll find the latest unemployment data for Texas and quickly catch up on policy changes and reemployment funding outlook. Please let me know if you have any questions. In partnership, Tamara

In partnership, Tamara


1

Austin unemployment rate continues to fall, while the job market buckles, as unemployment reaches 6.7% in July 2020

According to the latest figures released by TWC on 8/21, the unemployment rate for Texas (8.2%) is below the national unemployment rate (10.5%).

  • June unemployment in the Capital Area/Travis Co decreased from 7.5% in June to 6.9% in July, representing 50,485 jobless residents.
  • The overall June Austin-Round Rock MSA rate is slightly lower at 6.7%, or 81,942 jobless residents.
  • Of note: Self-employed, independent, gig, and contract workers typically ineligible for regular state unemployment (e.g. PUA claimants) are not counted in the monthly unemployment rates.
  • Read more in our Newsroom.

Austin/Travis County by the numbers:

Non-traditional claimants typically ineligible for unemployment benefits are represented in the below data.

  • New unemployment claims have decreased compared to earlier months in the pandemic, with 9,245 approved claims in July 2020.
    • The new filings decreased by the week, from 3,008 the week of July 5 to 1,516 the week of July 28.
  • were posted in Austin MSA in July 2020 (-740 from June 2020)
  • were posted in Austin MSA from August 1-13, 2020 (-3,564 compared to the same period in 2019)
  • when comparing the last week of June with the second week of August.
  • 5 workforce boards (Capital Area, Rural Capital, Alamo, Central Texas, and Heart of Texas) are banding together to host Hiring Red, White & You: Warrior Welcome Central Texas, the largest virtual hiring experience for veterans in the state.
  • Our published report features employment data from July 1-31 by occupation and demographic for Capital Area/Travis Co.

2

Catch up quick: COVID-19 workforce policy and funding changes

Here’s the latest scheduled effective dates and why they matter:

Unemployment benefits policy: WFS continues to monitor how these rapid policy changes affect the number of unemployed workers seeking our job matching and training services.

  • On Thursday, Gov. Abbott said Texas would apply for federal funding to provide the additional $300 per week pandemic stipend for people who have lost their jobs. The Texas Governor did not indicate that the state intended to boost the payment with an additional $100 per week.
    • The $300 enhanced benefit stems from an Executive Memorandum that President Donald Trump signed August 8. State governments are asked, but not required, to contribute $100 to the total.
    • The measure limits eligible recipients to those receiving at least $100 a week in state benefits. Those excluded would disproportionately be lower-wage, part-time workers.
    • States should be able to begin delivering the payments after applying for funding with FEMA and making technical changes to systems to distribute the money. The Labor Department estimates it will take states an average of three weeks to send out the money. Though there are many variables still at plan, TWC is hoping pandemic checks can go out to Texans as soon as next week.
    • Based on the current number of unemployment benefit recipients, a Labor Department official said the $44 billion in funds allocated for the enhanced benefits could be spent as soon as in five or six weeks, if all states participate.
  • Since July 25, when the $600 per week Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) expired, no pandemic stipends have been issued for the current 50,485 jobless in Travis County.
  • Amid a current four-fold increase in demand for reemployment services, the Workforce Innovation & Opportunity Act (WIOA) program — one of Workforce Solutions Capital Area’s most prominent federal funding sources — is scheduled to be reduced by 15% on October 1, 2020, in about one month.
    • The WIOA employment program, offered at no cost for participants, is designed to give job seekers personalized support and training needed to find a job.
    • Funding, determined by Congressional formulas, will be cut 15.1 percent for the 2021 fiscal year.  

Child care policy: We continue to respond to a high call volume from parents who need our child care services, and we continue to help ensure providers can stay open to serve children, safely.

  • On Thursday, TWC approved $106.4M to assist workforce boards and child care providers in addressing higher child care costs resulting from COVID-19. This includes the continuation of the 25% Enhanced Reimbursement Rate through December 2020 and funding full day care for children in school districts that have not started school yet or are 100% virtual right now.
    • Enhanced Reimbursement Rate payments are an incentive TWC began in March to encourage providers to stay open and address increased operational costs to serve essential workers.
    • WFS currently has 3,239 children in care, and 147 children enrolled in essential worker care. We continue to evaluate continued eligibility through our locally funded Continuity of Care program.

Workforce Solutions Capital Area CEO Update (August 10-14, 2020)

14 Aug

2-minute read

Good afternoon,

The big news is there’s unfortunately no news yet from Washington or the Capitol on reinstituting some form of pandemic stipend. Last Saturday, the President signed a Presidential Memoranda that would reinstate federal pandemic stipends, though at $400 per week, and no later than December 6. The catch (if no legal issues were raised) was that state governors would need to request the benefit and contribute 25% of the money. Two days ago, the US Dept of Labor advised that states are now not required to make the 25% payment. But the $400 per week stipend would be lowered to no higher than $300 per week and for an undetermined interval. Governor Abbott and the Texas Workforce Commission have been communicating with Vice President Pence and the Administration but have not taken action. As a result, no pandemic stipends since July 25 for the 65,000 jobless in Travis County. 

However, on Thursday, led by Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison, with the support of Mayor Adler, Council Members Alter, Casar, Tovo, Flannigan and each member of Austin City Council – Phase 1 of Workforce Solutions’ rapid retraining plan was placed into their draft FY21 budget. This will allow Workforce Solutions to rapidly integrate our training, childcare, transportation, digital inclusion, and other providers and build out a pilot system to help one hundred of our jobless friends and neighbors rapidly train and move into higher-paying occupations for 2021. But to fund Phase 2, federal stimulus talks will need to provide workforce development and state and local funds to assist in stimulating the economy.

Led by Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison, with the support of Mayor Adler, Council Members Alter, Casar, Tovo, Flannigan and each member of Austin City Council – Phase 1 of Workforce Solutions’ rapid retraining plan was placed into their draft FY21 budget.

Finally, as you all likely saw, we at Workforce Solutions are pleased to welcome BAE Systems’ announcement of a major expansion of operations and the plans to hire 700. These are great jobs, and we are eager to help them find great people to power their company’s growth. In leadership, we all live in the gray areas. At least locally, those grays around helping the jobless have sharpened a bit due to Austin City Council and (potentially) Travis County support for Phase 1 of our rapid retraining plan.

Below: As workers nationwide are struggling to find jobs — now with significantly reduced income — see how WFS leverages employer partnerships to develop talent pipelines and career pathways in in-demand industries like tech and skilled trades.

In partnership, Tamara


1

How Austin can prepare its tech workforce to sustain the needs of the economy

The Austin region needs a larger, more diverse tech talent pool to sustain the long-term growth prospects of this key industry. To address this challenge, WFS and Austin’s tech talent employers are coming together with the talent development partners to align and “right-size” the tech talent pipeline.

  • In a new report from WFS and the Austin Technology Council, prepared by Alexander Research & Consulting:
    • In 2019, Austin MSA had 65,000 IT jobs, representing almost 6% of the workforce.
    • While the short-term outlook for IT in the region is highly variable, the long-term outlook for IT job growth is strongly positive.
    • The region needs a larger tech talent pool to sustain the long-term growth prospects of this key economic driver and ensure our people can access good, locally-created IT jobs.
    • Employers desire a more diverse talent pool. Currently, 77% of tech workers in the Austin region are male. 64% are white.
    • To address this challenge, WFS andAustin’s employers of tech talent will come together with the region’s talent development partners to align and “right-size” the tech talent pipeline in the new Capital Area Technology Workforce Coalition (CATWC).
    • WFS closed an application round earlier this week to choose an IT consultant to support the CATWC.
  • Last week, WFS joined leaders from Austin Technology Council, TWC, and the City of Austin to get input from all sectors of the Central Texas economy to help shape the local tech talent pool to sustain the Austin tech ecosystem’s growth.
    • Read the IT Labor Market Study to explore employer demand for IT workers and contours of a plan to improve talent alignment.

How you can help:

  • We call Austin tech employers to reevaluate their minimum hiring requirements, just as other tech companies are considering alternatives to the traditional four-year degree.
  • We need direct employer input and participation in the partnership to push this work forward. Shoot me a message if interested.

2

‘I have had a lot of hardships in my life and this was my big break’: Abigail Leighton is learning how strong she is in Austin’s skilled trades

Before enrolling in the Multi-Craft Core Curriculum (MC3) training program in July to enter the trades, Abigail worked in the foodservice industry but realized her opportunities were limited. She sought work that would pay well and help build a productive life.

  • MC3 is a nationally recognized industry certificate that introduces students to the different building trades and teaches them the skills needed for a registered apprenticeship, debt-free.
  • All graduates are offered employment on graduation day as an electrician’s helper, plumber/pipefitter, laborer, sheet metal worker, fire sprinkler installer, insulator, or carpenter.
  • Ten out of 12 graduates in Abigail’s cohort were under the age of 34. Four were Class of 2020 high school grads.
  • On average, program trainees can earn up to $15/hour during their first year as an apprentice and up to $70,000/year after completing a program, which takes two weeks and is free.  

What they’re saying:

  • Abigail Leighton: “I have a new long-term goal and that is to show other women that they can do this too. Skilled trades may currently be a male-dominated industry, but it doesn’t have to be. Women make wonderful tradespeople and have so much to offer to this industry.”
  • Marc Pendleton, Organizational Development Specialist for Local 520:“We encourage women to be electricians because they have great attention to detail. I learned the tricks of the trade 14 years ago from a great Journeywoman.”
  • Read more about Abigail’s story here.

3

‘Now I can definitely provide a future for my daughter’: Kelly Thomas is providing a future for her daughter with help from WFS’ childcare services

Learning a new skill set to pursue a new career takes time and resources. For parents with young children who want to take this path, available and affordable childcare is essential.

  • Kelly Thomas, who has lived in Austin since 2001, has completed cosmetology training this month and is now weighing her career options. She can now do so, having received support with childcare.
  • Kelly’s parent navigator at AnyBabyCan there told her about WFS’ childcare tuition scholarships, which gave her the flexibility needed to enroll in her 1,500-hour cosmetology program at the end of 2019.
  • WFS currently has 3,239 children in care, and 417 children enrolled in essential worker care as we continue care for eligible children.

What they’re saying:

  • “There was no way I could have finished my program without this help,” said Kelly. “I have had a lot of hardships in my life and this was my big break. Now I can definitely provide a future for my daughter.”
  • Read more about Kelly’s story here.  

What’s next: WFS is hosting the 2020 Child Care Symposium on September 18-19, incorporating our annual symposiums for child care directors and teachers into a single virtual event.

  • Last year, we hosted over 600 for the Teachers Symposium and 250 for the Directors Symposium. This year, we expect to reach even more with our pivot to virtual.
  • 33 free sessions are available on accessibility, equity, and operational effectiveness.
  • You can register for the sessions on Eventbrite. Please share with your constituents.

Workforce Solutions Capital Area CEO Update (August 3-9, 2020)

9 Aug

2-minute read

Good afternoon,

While there are many details to surface, yesterday, the President signed a Presidential Memoranda that would restart pandemic stipends up to $400/week. The federal government would redirect $44 billion from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. State governments are asked to provide one-quarter of that sum from their unexpended CARES Act funds.

What it means to Travis Co: Travis Co had roughly 65,000 jobless receiving the $600/week pandemic stipend — over and above their Texas unemployment benefit — until it expired on July 25. If the President’s action survives potential legal challenges, money will again support Travis Co jobless residents, half of whom earn less than $30,000/year. The language in the memoranda suggests a Governor must request the aid from FEMA and agree to provide one-quarter of the total payment. It is not immediately clear when payments will actually restart, though the Memoranda says they can start as of the week ending August 1. Calculations are forthcoming on how long those payments will be sustained, though the Memoranda says the lost wage payments end no later than December 6. With a soft economy and unemployment 3x the February level, this $400/week payment will help Travis Co residents.

Travis Co had roughly 65,000 jobless receiving the $600/week pandemic stipend — over and above their Texas unemployment benefit — until it expired on July 25.

Below, take a closer look at the 55,643 June unemployed residents in Travis Co, a historical low employment rate for lower-income Austinites, and a July job posting trend analysis (showing a downturn since the end of June).

In partnership, Tamara


1

Who are Travis Co’s unemployed? A closer look at the 55,643 June unemployed residents by ethnicity, age, education, and previous occupation

The unemployed are disproportionately persons of color, younger, and have a high school diploma or GED. Below is a preliminary analysis of raw June unemployment data. We’ll bring you more findings of key changes in jobless demographics comparing more recent months.

Ethnicity: Black and Hispanic Travis Co residents are most disproportionately impacted by unemployment.

  • Black residents make up 12.8% of the June unemployed compared to 7.8% in the working-age population, according to Burning Glass Technologies Labor Insights.
    • In June 2020, 16% of all jobless claimants in Travis Co were black. These claimants include those not typically qualified for regular unemployment insurance like self‐employed, gig, and contract workers.
  • Hispanic residents make up 35.7% of the June unemployed while representing 31.4% of the local labor force.

Age: Over half of the June unemployed in Travis Co are between the ages of 16-34.

  • Residents ages 16-24 and 25-34 make up 26.1% and 25.2% of the June unemployed, respectively.
  • Of note: From March-June 2020, most jobless claimants are between the ages of 25-34 (34%). 
    • The second most are ages 35-44 (28%), and the third most is 16-24 (19%).

Education: Travis Co residents with less education than an associate’s degree are most disproportionately impacted by unemployment.

  • Unemployed residents with a high school diploma or GED (21.4%) are disproportionately affected compared to the labor force with this education level (16.9%).
  • Those with some college or an associate’s degree comprise nearly 30% of the June unemployed, near equal to the share of individuals with these educational levels in the labor force.
  • Unemployed residents with a bachelor’s degree (22.6%)comprise a smaller percentage than the total workforce with a bachelor’s degree (31.1%).
  • Of note: From March-June 2020, most jobless claimants have a high school diploma or GED (34%).
    • The second most had some college (24%), and third most hold an associate’s (23%).

Previous occupations: One in four June unemployed Travis Co residents across all sectors were previously in food service, retail, and personal care occupations (23%).

  • 16.6% were previously in skilled trades & manufacturing occupations.
  • 2.6% were previously in healthcare occupations.
  • 2% were previously in IT occupations.
  • Travis Co industries with the most June unemployment are Unknown (9,796); Retail Trade (6,236); Professional, Scientific, and Tech (5,563); and Accommodation and Food Services (5,275).

2

Lower-income workers in Austin MSA have a historically low rate of employment compared to pre-COVID, down 36.9% as of May 31, 2020

COVID’s impact has hit lower-income Austinites exceptionally hard, with the rate of lower-income employment down 36.9% as of May 31, 2020, compared to January 2020. The employment rate indicates a decrease in lower-income workers active in the workforce.

  • 50% of all Travis Co jobless claimants previously earned less than $30,000, and 78% previously earned less than $50,000, according to WFS data.
  • With high levels of unemployment and relatively few job openings, a cut in take-home pay began two weeks ago for Austin’s jobless claimants with the expiration of the $600 unemployment stipend.
  • Without a law to continue the stipend, the demand for WFS services— job matching and training support — is expected to surge.

Yes, but: WFS is working with a number of elected officialson rapid approaches the Austin region can take to help its lower-income population use this “downtime” to plug into an effective training ecosystem, receive guidance, rapid training, and job placement to ensure 2021 is much better financially.


3

Following enhanced safety orders, new job postings in Austin MSA fall 23% from the last week of June to the final week of July

According to Opportunity Insight, there was a 23.5% decline in new job postings comparing the week ending June 26 and the week ending July 31. The state of Texas experienced a 12.6% decline in new job ads when comparing the same weekly periods.

  • Job posting trends in Austin MSA across sectors began a decline at the beginning of July with heightened public safety orders brought on by the rise of new COVID-19 cases. 
    • This recent decline is in contrast to the surge in job postings as restrictions eased from May through June.
    • Comparing the last week of May 2020 and the final week of June,there was a 23.6% uptick in new job ads in Austin MSA. This increase was a continuation of an upward trend that began early May as food, retail, and hospitality industry jobs began to open.
  • The Leisure and Hospitality sector was the most impacted in July 2020, with a 32.8% decline in new job ads comparing the last week of June 2020 to the final week of July.
    • We continue to monitor how the rise in cases and enhanced safety restrictions continue to affect this hard-hit industry.
  • The Manufacturing sector showed the most resiliency with only a 3% decline in new job ads comparing the last week of June to the final week of July.
  • Healthcare job postings fell 4.1% when comparing the same periods, as hospitals hire contact tracers and health screeners at building entrances. 
  • Compared to a year ago, July 2020 had 8,398 more new job postings (24,774). However, this increase is largely from businesses filling positions lost during the pandemic.
  • The top occupation groups that companies across all sectors were hiring for in July 2020 were in IT (3,735), retail (2,874), and management (2,764).