April hiring came in at just a quarter of economists’ consensus forecast.

Owner Charles Milligan of Doc’s Backyard Grill posted this sign at his restaurant in Austin, TX (Courtesy Photo)

Forecasters expected a blowout number from an April jobs report released this morning by the U.S. Labor Department. Like a starting gun at a race, it was supposed to show that the pace of hiring in the country had finally picked up, setting the economy off at a sprint.

But instead of the 1 million jobs that economists had forecast, the report showed that U.S. employers added only 266,000 jobs in April. To make matters worse, the Labor Department also revised downward its previously released March number, from 916,000 to 770,000.

“Well — no-one saw that coming,” said ING Chief…

Businesses revise their expectations for wage and price growth in 2021.

Texas business executives expect to hike wages this year at an annual rate of 4.7%, outpacing official forecasts for inflation this year and pointing to price pressures ahead.

Compared to just a few months ago, inflation and wage expectations have risen among surveyed business executives. The Texas Business Outlook Survey in December showed an average forecast of 4.3% for wage growth, before jumping to 4.7% in April.

Texas executives expect input prices to rise even faster this year, by a rate of 5.5%. In the same survey in December, they forecast an increase of only 3.7%.

That’s according to 376…

The Texas Senate today voted largely along party lines to approve a bill allowing school employees to carry a concealed handgun in a classroom under certain circumstances.

Senate Bill 741 modifies the existing School Marshals program, which is overseen by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement in coordination with local school districts.

To become a school marshall, a school employee must be appointed by the district, must hold a valid license to carry, must pass a psychological exam, and must undergo 80 hours of training.

Identities of licensed school marshals are kept confidential, meaning that students don’t necessarily know which…

Texas manufacturers are raising wages, but it’s not enough to lure enough workers to keep pace with surging demand for factory goods, according to a survey by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.

The latest numbers for the monthly Texas Manufacturing Outlook Survey show all-time highs for indexes of manufacturing demand, labor, prices, and wages.

Many surveyed firms are blaming labor shortages on government benefits programs that make it relatively less attractive to work. “We need employees! It is hard to find anybody willing to work,” commented an executive at a manufacturer of fabricated metals.

“We are seeing purchase activities…

Texas cities would be served more often by passenger rail in coming years if Congress approves an infrastructure plan proposed by President Joe Biden earlier this month.

The plan includes $80 billion to improve the nation’s passenger and freight rail network — about 4% of the proposed $2.25 trillion plan.

Amtrak CEO Bill Flynn commented, “President Biden’s infrastructure plan is what this nation has been waiting for… Amtrak has a bold vision to bring energy-efficient, world-class intercity rail service to up to 160 new communities across the nation.”

A proposed service map publicized by Amtrak indicates that the new funding…

Home sales are strong in the Austin area but limited supply is making it harder for buyers to find a home and driving up prices.

Across the five-county Austin area in March, active listings dropped 78.3% compared to a year ago, and homes spent on average only 26 days on the market, half as many as last year, according to monthly data from the Austin Board of Realtors (ABOR).

Dollar volume jumped 51.6%, outpacing the 13.6% increase in homes sold, which suggests a faster increase in prices in the luxury end of the market.

In March, the median sales price…

Notional graphic provided by Zoic Labs.

Slingshot Aerospace, an Austin firm that builds space simulations, announced today that it will build a tool to help the U.S. Space command visualize enemy missiles.

The tool will help lay the groundwork for the launch of a U.S. government satellite network in 2025. “The Slingshot Aerospace tool will help operators identify threats and minimize false alarms,” the company said in a news release.

Though the contract is worth only $1.2 million, it’s indicative of the kind of work that Austin tech firms are hoping to land from new U.S. Space Command and Austin-headquartered Army Futures Command. …

The U.S. Producer Price Index jumped to a nearly 10-year high in March as producers reported higher prices of diesel fuel, electric power, industrial chemicals, steel mill products, plastics, machinery, and freight.

March’s reading of 1% was twice the forecast of 0.5% by economists polled by Reuters. For the 12-month period ended in March, the change was 4.2%, outpacing forecasts of 3.8%.

James Knightley, Chief International Economist for ING Group, said that fuel costs contributed significantly to the change but added, “there is evidence of broadening price pressures.”

“At the same time the ISM reports that customer inventories are at…

Texas has recorded a higher unemployment rate than the national average throughout most of the past year, and part of the reason for that is the downturn in the energy sector.

Just over a year ago, two in ten Texans worked in mining, quarrying, oil, or gas — about four times the national average. But between February and September last year, Texas shed about 65,000 of 235,000 jobs in the sector, though it has since regained nearly 10,000 of those, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

A stabilizing oil market is raising hopes of fresh hiring in some of…

Solar installers can make $20-$40 an hour in Austin. Stock photo.

The broader U.S. economy may still be hurting, but Austin’s job market is basically already back to where it was before the pandemic, with labor shortages emerging in certain industries.

Lower employment levels in the hospitality, healthcare, and other sectors have largely been offset by gains in construction, tech, financial services, and transportation.

The number of construction workers is up more than 2% from a year ago, and a boom in e-commerce has boosted employment in the transportation sector about 2.5%, according to Labor Department statistics for the five-county area that includes Austin.

Massive investments in commercial real estate are…

Honest Austin

Original reporting on local Austin news, Texas politics, and the economy. honestaustin.com

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