National news: Jobless claims surge in the latest week
"The number of initial claims in the week ending Jan. 16 rose 36,000 to 482,000, the Labor Department said."
Austin news: Job hunting? Your odds are about to go up, economists say
"Buoyed by continued population growth, the Austin metro area will add more than 26,000 jobs over the next two years, economist Angelos Angelou said Thursday .... Ed Friedman , a director at Moody's Economy.com who covers the Texas economy, also is predicting a jobs recovery in Austin, with 17,000 new jobs this year and 24,000 new jobs in 2011."
The WSJ article and DOL source indicate that some seasonal reporting issues may has biased the latest national numbers up, but if so it's because because previous weeks may have been understated. Any way you slice that data, national employment numbers are not moving in the right direction.
As for Austin/Central Texas:
The youth of Austin's work force, combined with its high skill level and entrepreneurial instincts, give Austin's labor market a flexibility that other cities don't have, Angelou said .... "When faced with layoffs, many young and educated workers are not going to start collecting unemployment insurance — they're going to be starting their own consulting businesses with friends and peers," he said. "So they will never be registered as unemployed. So that boosts our employment numbers higher as well as keeps our unemployment rate lower." He also listed a number of fields ripe for growth opportunity — renewable energy, data centers, creative media (such as video games), software development, and health care.
Entrepreneurship has thrived in Austin for many years, and continues to contribute in a big way.
Other analysts and forecasters may be more cautious than Angelou and Friedman, but we have been adding jobs, albeit slowly, over the past several months so I am optimistic for continuing growth this year. As I have blogged previously, the housing market in other areas can affect Austin's ability to sustain this growth if potential employees are unable or can't afford to sell their homes and make the move.
As pleased as I am to be in our relatively healthy local economic environment, we must never forget that in many ways we are all in this together! We still need a national surge in private sector employment. That's the keystone for all of us.