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Texas unemployment claims surge 1,819% in March amid coronavirus crisis

HOUSTON – The Texas Workforce Commission says it is now receiving an average of 120,000 calls a day as thousands of people grapple with losing their livelihood amid the coronavirus crisis. The agency also estimates it will cover the equivalent of a year’s worth of claims in a five-week period.

The Texas Workforce Commission also released list of 35 businesses in 17 counties that recently reported that more layoffs were coming.

“They gave us the notice Friday that everybody was furloughed from 3-12 weeks, indefinitely they said,” said Fred Hough, who spent the last five years working in Stage Stores corporate office. “It’s a real scary time right now. I’m like everybody else -- paycheck-to-paycheck.”

Hough said, thankfully, his husband is still working.

“Thank God it’s helping us a whole bunch and nothing has affected him yet. So we’re kind of on his salary right now, which is OK,” said Hough.

Hough got his furlough notice the same week Texas reported receiving 275,597 unemployment claims which was up 77% from the week before and a whopping 1,819% increase from the beginning of March.

“This is so far out of our normal range of data,” said Dietrich Vollrath, chair and economics professor at the University of Houston.

Vollrath said making economic predictions during this time is difficult because no one ever conceived of unemployment numbers this high.

“Unemployment can have persistent and lingering effects, one of the impacts of the great recession was that the recovery was really slow, people really came back into employment slowly,” said Vollrath.

However, Vollrath said if the crisis abates by summer, we could see a rebound.

“If that’s the case and the unemployment spells are short then that helps mitigate the long-run damage because people are just bridging a gap for a couple of months,” said Vollrath.

A hopeful tone in a time where many face a great deal of uncertainty.

“Just take it one day at a time, that’s all I’m doing, trying to maintain my schedule, trying to go to bed at the same time at night, getting up at the same time,” said Hough.