By all accounts, the housing market is booming in Austin.

Home prices, number of sales, and rental occupancy rates and rents are up. And, according to numbers released yesterday, so is new construction. MetroStudy, a firm that tracks realty numbers, says construction in the third quarter is up 37% from last year.

General Motors

An announcement on the General Motors website this morning says the auto maker is coming to Austin – creating an "Information Technology Innovation Center" that may ultimately employ up to 500 people. 

The company writes on its website:

Austin was chosen for an Innovation Center because the city already has people with the skills GM is seeking -  46,000, according to the May 2011 Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Report.

“We anticipate hiring as many as 500 new GM employees in Austin,”[GM Chief Information Officer Randy Mott] said. “We look to the Innovation Centers to design and deliver IT that drives down the cost of ongoing operations while continuously increasing the level and speed at which innovative products and services are available to GM customers."

The largest corporate employer in Central Texas, Dell, has sent out pink slips to an undisclosed number of workers. 

Despite acquisitions designed to broaden the company’s enterprise services, a slowing global economy, tough competitors, and a shift from desktop to mobile computing have hammered the Round Rock-based company’s sales, says industry analyst Shannon Cross.

“What hurt them most recently is just a dramatic slowdown in PC sales. Right now there’s a lot of uncertainty in the marketplace. China slowed dramatically for both HP and Dell in the most recent quarter. You’ve seen a lot of pricing pressure coming from some of the Asian competitors like Lenovo, Asus, and Acer.”

KUT News

One of the biggest employers in Central Texas is cutting jobs.

Dell let affected employees know about the reductions yesterday. The company says the cuts are in an effort to remain competitive and become more efficient.

“We recognize any reduction is significant for impacted team members and their teammates, and we are working to minimize consequences,” Dell Marketing Director David Frink says.

Dell isn’t revealing how many or which positions are being eliminated. Frink says some employees may be able to work elsewhere in the company.

Reshma Kirpalani for KUT News

Good morning. We're looking at another hot one today, with a high of 102 degrees. Here's some of the region's top overnight stories. 

Rebuilding Grants for Bastrop Fire Victims

It’s been just over one year since wildfires tore across Central Texas. Many fire victims are still rebuilding their lives.

Now, the Texas General Land Office is taking applications for federal aid from people whose homes were lost or damaged in the Bastrop fires.

The money is coming from more than $30 million dollars in Community Development Block Grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Austin’s unemployment rate stayed steady last month while the state rate went up slightly.

Austin’s unemployment rate was at 6.4 percent in both June and July.

"All in all it's not a bad picture but we are at a bit of a loss to explain some of the job losses that occurred during July, especially at the same time where we saw an increase in the numbers of the civilian labor force – which, again, is attributable to population growth," says Capital Area Workforce Solutions Executive Director Alan Miller. "But some of the numbers just don't quite make sense. And they're going to require us to dig a little deeper and find out what was going on in July." 

Austin’s unemployment rate went up last month.

It hit a three-year low in April of 5.5 percent, but grew last month to 5.8 percent.

According to the Workforce Solutions Capital Area Workforce Board, that increase is the largest the Austin area has seen since June 2011 (6.7 percent in May 2011 to 7.6 percent in June 2011). 

“Going up three tenths of a percent – it’s never positive to go up, we’d love to see the continued decreases that we’ve seen over the last few years – but we still created 2,000 jobs in the month of May. So while it may not be the number that we’re hoping for, it’s definitely positive and we continue to encourage employers to look at new job opportunities locally,” said Tiffany Daniels, Communication Coordinator for Workforce Solutions Capital Area Workforce Board.

President Obama used the White House press briefing room this morning to again make the case that Congress — and in particular the Republican-controlled House — needs to take up more of his ideas about how to boost job growth.

He also said it's "offensive" to suggest "my White House" may have leaked some secrets to gain political advantage.

We updated with highlights, so hit your "refresh" button to be sure you're seeing our latest.

Update at 12:15 p.m. ET. Romney Says Obama Is 'Out Of Touch':

Photo courtesy Ben Thompson via Flickr

The April unemployment rate in the Austin metro is the lowest it’s been in three years. It dropped half a point—from 6 percent in March to 5.5 percent in April. Last year at this time, Austin unemployment was at 6.3 percent.

"The Austin metropolitan area's unemployment rate has decreased in eight of the last nine months," said Texas Workforce Commission spokesperson Mark Lavergne.

The Texas Workforce Commission says Austin saw growth in nine of 10 major industries in April. 6,300 jobs were added in the Austin area last month —many in construction and in the Professional and Business Services sector.

Today the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce announced the launch of a new website designed to help fill Austin’s so-called “technology gap.”

The chamber says that Austin tech companies are having trouble finding qualified local candidates for mid-to-senior level positions. Last month the chamber found that 28 percent of posted job openings in the area were tech-related.

Image courtesy

Texas manufacturing ticked up last month, according to a report from the Dallas Federal Reserve (DFR).

The Texas Manufacturing Outlook Survey is conducted by the DFR monthly. It only complies results from 85 Texas manufacturers, so it’s more of a snapshot that a comprehensive assessment. Still, the findings reflect improving conditions among those surveyed.

The DFR points to several signs of manufacturing improvement: The state production index, the DFR’s gauge of manufacturing conditions, rose by over five points, from 5.8 to 11.2. New orders, shipments, and capacity utilization all posted gains for the month.

Employment measures – both new hires and hours worked by current employees – also saw growth.

Photo courtesy

Austin based tech firm Convio – which sells fundraising and outreach software to non-profits (including KUT) – has agreed to be purchased by South Carolina-based Blackbaud, a competitor that sells similar software.

The agreement was announced today on Blackbaud’s website. In a press release, the company wrote “The acquisition of Convio will combine the two companies’ strengths to accomplish a common mission – making multi-channel supporter engagement a reality – at a faster pace than either company could achieve on its own.”

Bureau of Labor Statistics

The latest job numbers were released by the Texas Workforce Commission today, and while there's no startling news to report, there are some interesting tidbits:

  1. Texas's employment advantage may be fading. The state's unemployment rate is up to 8.5 percent from 8.2 percent a year ago, while the national unemployment rate has fallen from 9.6 percent a year ago to 9.1 percent this month.
  2. Austin had the lowest unemployment rate among the five largest cities in Texas, at 7.4 percent (same as last month, but up from 7 percent a year ago). The highest? El Paso, at 10.6 percent (up a full point from a year ago).
  3. Much of the state's job creation has come in the private sector, which added 26,500 jobs. But...
  4. The public sector is taking a beating. It lost over 11,000 jobs in September, and has shed 33,700 jobs since September last year.
  5. The highest percentage of job gains in the state came in the "Professional and Business Services" category, which includes professions like accountants, lawyers, computer engineers and the like. They're up 5.3 percent in job gains since last September.

The full release from the commission can be found here, with notes by KUT News.

Photo by Ben Philpott for KUT News.

The Houston Chronicle is reporting that Gov. Rick Perry may be unveiling what's being called a "major pillar" of his jobs plan this Friday in Pittsburgh.

Ray Sullivan, the Perry campaign's communications director told MSNBC's Chuck Todd this morning that the speech wouldn't be the full reveal, but he said the speech would be a "significant policy rollout." He said it concern how job creation, energy independence and "how to reduce our dependence on hostile countries supplying energy and oil to our country."

Photo by Jessie Wang for KUT News

The Texas Workforce Commission puts the Central Texas jobless rate at 7.6 percent in June, up 0.8 percent over May.  Despite that, the Workforce Commission reports that 1,400 new private sector jobs were created in Austin last month. Lisa Givens, a commission spokesperson, says it's not uncommon to see both the unemployment rate and the number of newly-created jobs rise at the same time.

Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

Austin-based Bean Brand Foods, the maker of Beanitos bean chips, says it is looking for a 75,000 square foot facility in Central Texas to combine its manufacturing, warehousing, and administrative facilities. The locally based company says it will seek to hire 150 people towards the end of 2011.

Bean Brand Foods moved its manufacturing facility from Austin to San Bernardino, California in late 2010. But rising shipment costs and a desire to keep the plant closer to its Austin headquarters prompted the company to reverse course.

Image by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott sent a letter to staff this week, welcoming them back to work from the holidays and warning them they might be fired. With state lawmakers ready to begin a legislative session next week that will require closing a budget gap as big as $25 billion or more, is this an impending sign of the pain that will be wrought on Austin's economy?

Stevie Ray Vaughn in the storm
Image courtesy Stuck in Customs

The Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos area added 17,700 jobs over the last 12 months, according to statistics released this morning by the Texas Workforce Commission. But because the size of the labor force also grew, the unemployment rate actually edged upwards to 7.1 percent in November 2010 compared to 7 percent in November 2009.

solar farm
Image courtesy RRE Austin Solar

Construction officially begins tomorrow on one of the largest solar farms in the country. The $230 million facility is being built by RRE Austin Solar in Pflugerville.

Besides hosting a 60 megawatt solar farm, the project also includes a nature trail, a wildflower meadow, trees, and a wind power exhibit. You can check out conceptual maps here and here.

Newsweek is the latest national publication to give Austin's economy high praise for being pretty awesome compared to everywhere else.

In its list of the 10 American cities best situated for the recovery, Newsweek repeats the familiar refrain of reasons why Austin's economy rules.