Austin tops list of fastest economic growth

Jameson Pitts

Austin’s economy is the fastest growing out of large cities in the U.S., according to a report released last week.

UT gives students access to diverse career possibilities in the strong Austin economy, while simultaneously accelerating the economy by attracting and placing talent, according to Jill Gonzalez, spokeswoman and analyst for WalletHub, the financial service behind the city rankings.

Gonzalez said Austin’s strengths in many different industries mean students enrolled in a wide range of majors can find a job after graduation.

“First of all, it’s a huge tech hub, and also a very big health care hub, especially where tech is concerned,” Gonzalez said. “And thirdly, it has this huge creative sector and has really taken charge of this festival economy.”

Of nearly half a million living alumni, more than 300,000 list addresses in Texas, 123,566 of which are in the Austin area, according to Texas Exes data provided by spokesman Tim Taliaferro. Gonzalez said the University fuels the Austin economy with an ongoing supply of young talent.

“I think the fact that Austin can attract top talent and bring them in when they’re 18 years old, and then show off what the city has going for itself — is kind of a double whammy,” Gonzalez said. “It does a good job keeping that top talent in town.”

Because of Austin’s exceptional growth, Gonzalez said students should be grateful their university is located in a boomtown, citing examples of prestigious universities stalling economies.

“Students should consider themselves very lucky, not only to be going to a great school, but then having the opportunities nearby,” Gonzalez said. “New job opportunities also means new internship opportunities, things that can really help you while you’re still in school.”

But growth has had other side-effects too. Gonzalez said home prices in Austin grew at 3.5 percent, the 7th highest rate in the country, and events such as SXSW and ACL have prepared Austin for other challenges such as increasing
infrastructure demands.

While Austin’s growth is broad and fast, it isn’t equal across every industry sector. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the “leisure and hospitality” and “professional and business services” sectors saw the greatest job growth this year, while the manufacturing sector saw a decline in employment.  Austin’s unemployment rate is 3.2 percent, compared to the national average of 5.1 percent.

Sociology junior Anna Alvarado said she must balance the trade-off between economic strength and growing pains.

“Prices are high for living, because it’s a fast-growing economy within a city that always has something going on,” Alvarado said. “If I don’t find [a job] here that pays really well, in order to pay back my student debt, I’m leaving.”

Undergraduate studies freshman Anastasia Tran said she’d like to stay in Austin after graduation, but she would eventually outgrow it.

“I think it’s a good city for your first starter job,” Tran said. “But ultimately, Austin isn’t the goal.”