Economist: Houston hovering near 15% unemployment rate

HOUSTON – Bill Gilmer, an economist at the University of Houston’s Bauer School of Business, estimated Friday that the current unemployment rate in Houston, a nine county region, is currently near 15%.

“We lost 250,000 jobs in April,” Gilmer said.

He said that figure dwarfs any other economic downturn in Houston’s history, including the 1980′s oil bust.

Gilmer noted that few industries have been spared from job loss, including, surprisingly, healthcare, where non-essential procedures have been put on hold for months.

But the hardest-hit industries have been restaurants, bars, hotels, leisure and travel, Gilmer said.

The veteran economist and professor estimated that May could offer a glimmer of hope and net job loss for the year in the Houston area would be approximately 83,000. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Gilmer had estimated the same area would see an increase in 2020 of about 50,000 jobs.

Gilmer expects that jobs would come back as the Houston Metro area re-opens for business, but the coronavirus continues to be a wildcard in when exactly the economy will get back on track.

“We don’t know when this ends, we have gotten very little guidance on that,” Gilmer said.