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Texas’ unemployment rate stays near highs not seen since the 2008 Great Recession

Texas' unemployment rate was
in November, up from 3.5% in November 2019.
In December, Texas collected
$2.9 billion
in sales tax revenues, down 5% from December 2019.

Business shutdowns and limits on their operations through the coronavirus pandemic have battered Texas companies, which are now grappling with another devastating surge in infections. Entire industries — bars and restaurants, tourism and travel, oil and gas — continue to struggle.

The unemployment rate in Texas rose to 8.1% in November, more than double the rate of 3.5% a year earlier. The state’s outdated and understaffed unemployment insurance office has left countless Texans struggling to receive unemployment benefits as they navigate the Texas Workforce Commission’s confusing processes.

A decline in Texas’ sales tax revenues — the largest source of funding for the state budget — has created a shortfall that lawmakers will have to fill in the 2021 legislative session. Economists say weakened global demand for oil, high unemployment and the ongoing public health crisis will continue to hamper Texas’ economic recovery.

The unemployment rate increased in November

Texas’ unemployment rate in November was 8.1% — an increase from the 6.9% October jobless rate, according to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report released Dec. 18. The state's unemployment rate for November is the latest indicator that economic recovery in Texas will be slow and staggered.

Unemployment rate

Unemployment by county

The impact of the coronavirus recession varies widely across Texas. The latest data showing how the unemployment rate varies in Texas counties is from November. Joblessness is the worst in South Texas’ Starr County, where many people work in oil fields. The county recorded a 19% unemployment rate in November. Other counties bordering Mexico have also experienced significant job loss.

Unemployment in Austin’s Travis County is at 5.9%, the lowest rate among Texas’ most populous urban counties. A handful of rural counties throughout the state are seeing unemployment rates below 3%.

Unemployment rate by county

Sales tax revenues fell in December

In December, Texas collected $2.9 billion in sales tax revenues, down 5% from what the state collected in December 2019. Those revenues came mostly from purchases made in November, when key coronavirus metrics surpassed records set over the summer and Gov. Greg Abbott ruled out any new statewide business restrictions. The total revenue for October, November and December was down 5% compared to the same period in 2019, according to Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar.

Change in sales tax revenues from previous year

About this data

The unemployment rate for Texas is updated on the third Friday of each month with data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Local Area Unemployment Statistics program. County unemployment rates are generally updated two weeks after the statewide rate. Sales tax revenue data is updated at the beginning of each month.

Disclosure: The Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

Correction: An earlier version of this story listed state sales tax revenue incorrectly. The amounts are in billions of dollars.

Illustrations by Emily Albracht. Mandi Cai and Brandon Formby contributed to this report.