Nearly 3.5 million Texans have filed for unemployment relief since mid-March

As of September 12,
3.5 million
Texans have filed for unemployment relief since
Texas' unemployment rate was
in August, up from 3.5% in August 2019.
In August, Texas' sales tax revenues were down
from August 2019.

The coronavirus pandemic has steered the economy into a recession. In Texas, the state’s unemployment rate remains nearly double what it was at the start of the year, and nearly 3.5 million people have filed for unemployment relief since mid-March. The week ending September 12, a total of 49,644 Texans filed initial applications for unemployment relief. On Aug. 6, the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas said the state will recover some of the lost jobs during the rest of the year, “but not enough to overcome the sharp declines in March and April.”

Texas’ sales tax revenues — the largest source of funding for the state budget — have created a shortfall that officials will have to fill.

The state’s outdated and understaffed unemployment insurance office has left countless Texans confused and without unemployment benefits. An extra $600 weekly unemployment payment that was part of a federal relief bill expired in July. In August, the state received federal funding to provide an extra $300 every week for people who have lost their jobs. However, nearly 350,000 unemployed Texans didn't qualify for the extra benefit, and the payments ended in September.

When eviction moratoriums were lifted in July, unemployed renters faced a system that housing attorneys — and some eviction judges — say is already stacked against tenants. In September, the federal government announced a nationwide eviction moratorium that could protect millions of Texans from being evicted.

Economists say weakened oil prices, high unemployment and the ongoing public health crisis will slow Texas’ economic recovery.

Here’s how many Texans are filing for unemployment relief

The week ending September 12, a total of 49,644 Texans filed initial applications for unemployment relief. This is the lowest number of weekly initial applications filed since mid-March. Since mid-March, nearly 3.5 million Texans have applied for unemployment insurance, more than in all of 2019. The Texas Tribune is tracking the number of out-of-work Texans filing for unemployment relief with the Texas Workforce Commission each week.

New unemployment claims each week

Unemployment rate falls for fourth month in a row

Texas’ unemployment rate in August was 6.8% —a drop from the 8% July jobless rate, according to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report released September 18. This signals the state’s economy has improved from the state’s worst-ever jobless months — April and May — when Gov. Greg Abbott closed or limited in-person commerce across the state.

Unemployment rate

Sales tax revenues fell in August

In August, Texas collected $2.8 billion in sales tax revenues, a decrease of 5.6% from the same period in 2019. Those revenues came from purchases made in July, when the number of coronavirus cases was peaking. Spending was likely supported by federal benefits to help offset losses from the pandemic which have since expired or been reduced, according to Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar.

Sales tax revenues

About this data

Unemployment claims are updated each Thursday with data from the U.S. Employment and Training Administration and the Texas Workforce Commission. The unemployment rate is updated on the third Friday of each month with data from the previous month. Sales tax 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.