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How Bad Has Texas Been Hit By Pandemic-Driven Unemployment?

An early analysis of Texas' unemployment claims show state ranks in the middle of the pack when compared with other states.
By Peter Simek |

There is no way yet to fully understand just how big a blow to the economy the ongoing shutdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic is going to be. The last few weeks already saw record unemployment claims, which have been followed up today with news that– on top of the 16.8 million jobs already lost — 5.24 million more Americans have filed for unemployment. To date, that’s around 22 million out of work in a span of a few weeks, with many more businesses surely hanging on by a thread.

What is different about this crisis and other recessions is that the job losses are distributed broadly, and whereas Dallas’ diversified economy was able to weather the 2008 Great Recession better than most, it is much more difficult to chart a way through this mess. To put it in perspective: the 2008 financial crisis resulted in 8.8 million job loses — we’re already at 22 million.

But where does Texas unemployment rank compared to other states? According to a new study, right in the middle — coming in 22nd among the 50 states. Colorado leads the nation in job losses, followed by Louisiana, North Carolina, New Hampshire, and Mississippi. So far, the states that seen least job loses are Connecticut, Wyoming, and Wisconsin.

The data comes from a study put together by WalletHub, and it came to its conclusions by comparing unemployment claims by state through April 6. A couple of things to keep in mind, then, about this data. The numbers are 10 days old, and the COVID crisis is very fast moving — much may have changed over the last 10 days. Also, there have been many issues with overwhelmed states struggling to keep up with processing new claims. There may be more unemployed people out there than have been able to get their claims through.

But the study does offer some bell weather indications of where this thing is headed. One is that, even though red states appear to be having more unemployment than blue states, the impacts of the pandemic are being felt everywhere, even outside of breakout hot spots. The study also compared the rate of jobless claims compared with 2019, the beginning of 2020, and the start of the COVID crisis. That’s when things get scary for Texas. Since the start of the COVID crisis, Texas’ job losses were fairly low compared to the rest of the country, with the state ranking 42 out of 50. But in the last week, it’s ranking shot up to 22 — a reflection, perhaps, of the timing of the expansion of statewide stay-at-home orders.

Still, there isn’t enough data available yet to figure out what the slight delay in the pandemic’s impact on Texas truly means. Is it a wave or a trend, a peak or an outlier? It’s difficult to tell. What it certainly is, however, is not good.

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