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Texas’ Unemployment Numbers Are a Horror Show. They Could Be Worse.

Unemployment claims have skyrocketed in Texas and nationwide amid shutdowns related to the novel coronavirus.
Unemployment claims have skyrocketed in Texas and nationwide amid shutdowns related to the novel coronavirus.
Bytemarks / Flickr

Another Thursday, another set of unemployment numbers that would've been unbelievable three months ago.

Almost 300,000 Texans applied for unemployment insurance payments over the week that ended April 13, 2020. According to an analysis from WalletHub, that's more than a 20-fold increase from the same period in 2019, when just more than 11,000 Texans sought unemployment checks. Texas' year-over-year increase in claims is the 21st highest in the United States.

The Lone Star State cracks the U.S. top 10 if you look at its increase in 2020 claims. About 12,000 Texans made jobless claims the week of Jan. 1. That's another increase of more than 2,000%, if you're counting.

Since March 16, the beginning of the week that saw Texas' first stay-at-home orders implemented, 1.3 million unemployment claims have been filed with the state. More than 65,000 were filed over the same period in 2019.

Jill Gonzalez, an analyst with WalletHub, said in a press release announcing the company's findings that it could be a long time before unemployment is back to the level it was in January.

“Until we have a vaccine for COVID-19, we will not see employment levels similar to the beginning of the year. Once businesses start to open, we will see the unemployment rate stabilize and then slowly start decreasing. The economic stress put on businesses by the coronavirus crisis may prevent them from having the resources to do much hiring at the start,” Gonzalez said. “Some industries’ hiring will bounce back sooner than others; for example, restaurants that are reopening will need to hire serving staff again after laying off or furloughing them during the switch to takeout-only meals.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced plans last week to begin reopening businesses in the state. Starting today, retailers capable of offering curbside service can reopen.

Wednesday, the governor signaled in a pair of radio interviews that further relaxation of the state's novel coronavirus orders are forthcoming.

“We’re going to make an announcement either this Friday or next Monday setting a date to reopen beginning a week after that,” Abbott told WBAP-AM 820. “You’re going to be able to go dining under safe standards, you’re going to be able to get a haircut, you’re going to be able to go to hair salons, but we’re going to make sure there are safe standards in place.”

Abbott told conservative Lubbock radio host Chad Hasty that some counties in Texas may be able to open sooner than others.

“We are looking at counties where there have been like zero cases, or just a low number of cases of COVID in the particular county, and these would be mostly rural counties. They may be able to have an expanded version of being able to open up,” Abbott said. “And then on the flip side of that, there are some counties where the outbreak is still progressing too rapidly, and they may not be able to fully participate in the initial phase of reopening until they get the spread of the coronavirus in their county under control.”

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