As Texas experiences a surge of coronavirus infections, more than 117,244 people applied for unemployment claims last week, an increase of 21.4% compared with the week before. It was the second week in a row that the number of claims rose.
Since mid-March, nearly 2.8 million people have filed for unemployment benefits in Texas. The peak of unemployment claims came in early April, when more than 315,000 Texans applied for the benefits in a single week. During June, as businesses reopened, the demand for unemployment benefits decreased, but it was still more than five times larger than the number of applications during the same month last year.
"The numbers are much lower than in March, but they are rather alarming, and they coincide with the increase of coronavirus cases," said Sarah Zubairy, associate professor of economics at Texas A&M University. "Even if you open the restaurants, bars and gyms, this virus will be on the loose, and it will affect how people are deciding to engage with the economy."
The overall unemployment rate for June is scheduled to be published next week. Texas’ unemployment rate hit an all-time high of 13.5% in April, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In May, the unemployment rate fell slightly to 13%. But the forecast for the coming months remains unclear.
"Governments are responding, so hopefully we will see improvements, but because of the coronavirus expansion, things are still very uncertain," Zubairy said.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the state’s worst-ever monthly unemployment rate was 9.2% in November 1986, as Texas reeled from the last big oil bust. Later, during the Great Recession, the unemployment rate in the state never surpassed 8.3%.
The state’s unemployment rate is the share of Texans in the labor force who are out of work. The unemployment rate is different than the raw number of people filing for unemployment insurance because some of those filers are still employed but have been furloughed or had their hours cut.
Disclosure: Texas A&M University has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.