EDINBURG, Texas – UT-Rio Grande Valley’s Center for Border Economic Studies predicts Texas’ current economic woes will last many months, if not years.

The group produces a report on the economy every quarter. The new Summer 2020 publication is titled: April’s Toll on Texas. 

The authors are Dr. Salvador Contreras, associate professor of economics at UTRGV, and Dr. Rogelio Sáenz, professor of demography at the University of Texas San Antonio.

Salvador Contreras

Their report points out that the last couple of months have “brought major devastation to the nation’s workforce,” with the Bureau of Labor Statistics showing the U.S. unemployment rate rising from 4.4 percent in March to 14.7 percent in April. 

The tripling of the unemployment rate was driven by job losses in practically all industries, the report states. 

“Stay-at-home orders saw teachers, cashiers, machine operators, dishwashers, dentists, and many others lose their sources of income,” the report states. “While at the end of February there were two million persons who filed continued claims for unemployment insurance, the total shot up to 22 million by the end of April.”

In Texas, the volume of continued claims soared nearly nine-fold from 125,000 to 1.1 million over the same time period. 

While no group has been spared, Black and Hispanic Texans saw larger declines in employment when compared to Whites, the CBEST report states. Women saw almost twice the declines in employment versus men. 

“In particular, Black and Hispanic women saw the largest declines. Further, Texas’ younger workers alongside those with lower levels of education and income experienced the most severe employment declines.”

Rogelio Sáenz

The Rio Grande Valley had the largest percent decline in employment among large Texas metros. However, CBEST states, the data suggest that when official unemployment figures come out, the Houston metro will have the state’s highest jobless rate, followed by the Valley. 

“An interesting side note is that in our Fall 2019 issue, we show that these two metros had the state’s highest level of income inequality,” the report states.

The report looks in-depth at unemployment in Texas, with data broken down by industry, geographical region, race and gender.

Contreras and Sáenz offer this summary:

“We presented statistics that provide an indication that Texas was not spared from the job carnage seen across the nation. The recent Bureau of Labor Statistics report shows that Texas had an unemployment rate of 12.8 percent and a loss of 2 million jobs in April. Texas saw declines in employment that are consistent with national trends. However, in Texas, job losses have not been uniform. People who have disproportionately lost their jobs include people of color (Blacks and Hispanics), women, people with lower levels of education, and people with the lowest income levels. 

“The employment reports that will be coming out in the coming months are likely to disappoint those who expect a quick recovery of lost jobs. After all, weekly jobless claims continue to suggest high job losses, albeit a declining trend. The Commerce Department reported a decline in retail sales of 16.4 percent for April and the Federal Reserve reported an April contraction in industrial production of 11.2 percent. Things are likely to remain bleak for, most optimistically, a few more months, but, more realistically, years into the future. In the meantime, Texas must come to grips with the human toll and its disproportionate impact on its most vulnerable people.”

Editor’s Note: Credit for the main image accompanying the above news story goes to McAllen Public Library and Workforce Solutions. They held a joint job fair in 2018. 

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