It’s a good thing that being the Live Musical Capital of the world is not the only trait that a wonderful city like Austin is known for globally. Tech hubs, like ours, are in a far better position to mitigate the effects of a COVID-19 induced recession. As forecasts proliferate, it’s not necessarily true that all areas will be hit equally hard. The outlook is more dire for cities like Las Vegas, Miami, Tampa and Orlando, who rely heavily on tourism and entertainment for their revenue streams. Our optimism is derived from looking at two key at-risk characteristics of jobs: the degree to which workers interact directly with the public and jobs that require high levels of very close physical proximity to others. Luckily for Austin, digital services jobs have been increasing from 21,126 in 2010 to 54,603 in 2018, a compound annual growth rate of 12.6%.
This boom over the past decade has led to 15.8% of all jobs in our local economy being tech related, nearly double the national average of 8.7%. Due to this focus on tech, Austin is also fit to sustain extended working from home periods. According to data from the BLS Job Flexibilities and Work Schedules Summary, workers with advanced education were more likely to perform work at home. Among wage and salary workers age 25 and over, 47 percent of those with a bachelor’s degree or higher worked at home at least occasionally, compared with 9 percent of workers with only a high school diploma and 3 percent of workers with less than a high school diploma. It’s a good thing that the Austin-Round Rock MSA ranks in the top 10 most educated in the US, higher than any other Texan area.
Austin is a resilient city and proved this in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. Thanks to a diversified industry base and relatively stable housing fundamentals that provided local residents with comparatively secure standards of living. This resilience was seen all over the state, as Texas cities claimed four of the top five spots in the Milken Institute’s Best Performing Cities Index in 2010. The ever-intermingled debates over mobility, housing affordability, and reforming our land use code are only going to intensify as average income and employment rates drop. However, a dynamic, hardworking city like Austin is among bookkeepers’ favorites for the first to return to normality, and just as importantly, productivity.