More than 155,000 Texans filed for unemployment last week as businesses across the state shut down as part of a massive public health effort to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.
That total, which was reported Thursday morning by the U.S. Department of Labor, is equal to about 10 times the total number of claims filed the week before. That uptick was part of a nationwide spike in unemployment claims: 3.3 million Americans filed for benefits last week, marking the nation's largest-ever recorded increase in new jobless claims.
Earlier this week, the Texas Workforce Commission announced it was expanding the hours of operation for its unemployment benefit services call center, including keeping the center open on Saturdays. Officials said the move came in response to "an unprecedented call volume as a result of COVID-19," the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
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Last week, Gov. Greg Abbott issued an order closing bars and restaurants across the state for all service except drive-thru, takeout and delivery. The order also closed schools and gyms, banned most people from visiting nursing homes and banned social gatherings of 10 or more people. That order came days after some of the state's most populous counties issued similar orders.
Since then, several counties in the state, including Dallas and Tarrant counties, have tightened their restrictions further, closing all nonessential businesses and banning social gatherings of any size.
On March 17, Abbott issued an executive order directing the Texas Workforce Commission to waive the waiting period before out-of-work Texans can receive benefits. The order also waives the requirement that unemployment recipients look for work in order to keep their benefits.