Houston area loses more than 140,000 jobs during pandemic, new report says

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- On Friday, Texas released its latest job report which shows how hard the pandemic has hit the Houston economy. With hospitalizations and COVID-19 cases continuing to surge across the area, the unemployment rate is still high.

According to Friday's report, the unemployment rate is at 8%, which is more than four points higher than last year.

"We've got a long ways to go," said Parker Harvey, a principal economist at Workforce Solutions. "We're still down 150,000 jobs year over year, and the unemployment rate is still sitting at 8%."

Over the past year, jobs in the leisure and hospital industries lost 36,300 jobs. In construction, a total of 24,500 jobs were lost and in mining and logging, which includes oil and gas, lost 14,000 positions.

The only industry to see growth was professional and business services.

"It makes sense why," Harvey said. "A lot of those jobs can be done remotely, so they haven't fared nearly as poorly as say restaurants or retail."

It's not all bad news. The Houston area has brought back about 60% of the jobs lost during March and April.

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Plus, over the past five months, more jobs have been created than lost.

"It's pretty much where we should be and that's exactly what we saw," Harvey said.

For many of those struggling in the pandemic, they might be thrilled to hear that help is on the way, especially for those who have lost their job.

On Friday, Pres. Joe Biden signed an order expanding eligibility for people to receive food assistance.

At West Houston Assistance Ministries, they are aware of this great need in the community.

"We've helped four times the number of people that we normally do. In fact, we've completely changed our processes," said WHAM CEO Mark Brown. "We've had to scale up."
The organization went from helping 30,000 people to 115,000 in 2020.

"The food insecurity issue here in Houston is enormous. It hasn't slowed down," Brown said.

Biden's order also provides protections for those receiving unemployment benefits, allowing them to keep them if they refuse work because they're considered to be at high risk of contracting COVID-19.

The Texas Workforce Commission told ABC13 it will wait on guidance from the Department of Labor to figure out how this move will apply in Texas. However, TWC said unemployed Texans can refuse work because of health reasons and COVID-19 but each situation is reviewed on a case by case basis.

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