Sustainability efforts can flourish if economic prosperity is distributed across sectors and demographic categories of a region. More than ever before, communities are actively involved in critically examining how their local economies work and how to plan for their economic future. Economic indicators provide an important signal to guide this effort. Key economic indicators include: income, diversity of the economy, labor, exports, and entrepreneurship. In general, the Austin area has seen strong economic growth with an increasing median income in the years since the 2008 recession. Unemployment rates have decreased while exports and entrepreneurial activity have increased. However, a growing proportion of the labor seems to be employed by a small number of large capital companies and racial disparities persist with regard to economic well-being. A few highlights from this section include:
- The average wage in Travis and Williamson counties is higher than the average of Texas and the U.S. All other counties have a remarkably lower average wage and the average wage in Caldwell County is approximately 60% lower than Travis County.
- Caldwell County has the highest percentage of families living below poverty line (14.2%) and highest percentage of students enrolled in free and reduced lunch (70%).
- Over half of the firms in the Austin area comprise 1 to 4 employees (55% of firms), about 1% of firms have more than 500 employees. These large firms employ over 50% of labor force in the Austin area.
- According to the A2SI survey, approximately 20% of residents feel at least somewhat limited by their skill level or attained education when it comes to jobs. 48% of Hispanics and 42.6% of African Americans felt this way.
- Food and Beverage Serving Workers, Teachers, and Retail Sales Workers are the top three growing occupations in the Austin area.
- The number of utility patents and the volume of venture capital investments continue an upward trajectory since the 2009 recession.
Thinking about the economic section, some questions to consider:
- How does population distribution across the region affect employment opportunities for particular groups of people? Where are large businesses located relative to those unemployed?
- Employees of which industries are most likely to lack health coverage?
- Do we have the resources to train people to take advantage of the job opportunities in the area?