I have heard off and on over the years that the urban core of Austin holds about 30 percent of the jobs in the Austin region. It’s a mantra often repeated, especially as it relates to transportation discussions. But, as I thought about it, no one has ever been really able to say how or where that sound bite came from.
Thankfully, we now have a bonafide source, The Brookings Institution, who says it is about 25 percent (if we count “downtown” as the three-mile zone surrounding it and not the
bureaucratic political boundaries City Hall assigns to “downtown” as the 78701 and part of 78703 zip codes).
The Austin American-Statesman just posted a story on downtown Austin job growth, based on a report by the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program.
If you’ve followed us at the Downtown Austin Blog for a while, you’ll know that from time to time, we like to dive into data around condo sales. This time, I’m diving into these job numbers.
Report on the report
The Brookings report puts into numbers what we all already know intuitively: downtown Austin keeps adding jobs. What we don’t always realize is how exceptional that fact is, relative to other cities.
Between 2007 and 2010 – the years of the Great Recession – downtown Austin was one of only FOUR of the major cities across the entire country where the number of absolute jobs in the urban core *WENT UP*. Amazing.
Austin joined Charleston, Cincinnati and New Orleans in this distinction, but Austin was the only one that did not lose jobs overall during this time period. (I’m not smart enough about this, but does that mean Austin never had a recession??)
If we count on the number of office developments, and hotels underway now in downtown, it’s safe to assume downtown Austin will continue to lead the country in adding jobs.
Food for thought
One might think that this puts Austin in a magic realm of urban development and new urban development. Well, it does, in a way, but paradoxically, the share of jobs in downtown Austin, relative to the jobs in the metro area actually fell from 2000 to 2010 by about 3 percent.
Why? Because even though Austin added about 6,000 jobs downtown from 2000 to **2010** – which in and of itself is remarkable – in the zone that is 10-35 miles from the Central Business District, the city added a staggering 74,000 jobs.
It is interesting to me because, if you look at other American cities especially in the past three decades, most of the cities that had surges of jobs surged in the suburbs, while downtowns languished. This means, matter of fact, downtown Austin is special.
So rather than opening up a debate on whether downtown is “the economic engine” of the region, this new report confirms that downtown is definitely a pumping piston in the engine. As a downtown lover, I’ll cheers to that.
If you are curious about what 3, 10 and 35 miles looks like, here ya go: