COVID -19 and the Labor Market
A headline from Fortune Magazine says it all, “Over 40 million Americans have filed for unemployment during the pandemic—real jobless rate over 23.9%”.
The Valley has experienced pandemic unemployment levels for most of its history, so this is not a new experience. However, this changed when the right educational infrastructure was created in the 90s to educate and train the workforce needed in the community that led to historic low unemployment levels.
The unemployment levels across the Valley ranged from 4.4% in McAllen to 7.8% in San Juan before COVID-19, so no one will be surprised at the unemployment levels reported for our region.
COVID-19 has destroyed the country’s economy, and the Valley has not been spared.
Unemployment levels being reported for April by Workforce Solutions indicate our service economy is devasted. Starr County has the highest unemployment, 24.3%, and Cameron County has the lowest at 17.1% in the region.
Hidalgo County had the second-highest unemployment level 18.2%, followed by Willacy County with 17.4%.
Edinburg had the lowest unemployment level, 14.1%, which had an increase of 8.2% from the previous month -March.
McAllen’s unemployment level increased by 8.2% to 15.9%, with Harlingen having the third lowest employment at 16.6%, which had an increase of 10.1% from the previous month.
Brownsville’s unemployment level was 17.6%, which had a rise of 9.8% from March.
Webb County has fared better than the Valley. The unemployment level for the county is 13.6%, which is an increase of 10.4% from the previous month. Furthermore, Laredo had a much lower unemployment rate compared to the cities in the Valley, which is 13.7%, with an increase of 8.6% from the previous month.
The industry with the highest number of job losses was leisure and hospitality. This should not be a surprise because all the restaurants were closed, and the border was also closed to essential travel that impacted the hotels in our region. According to the data from Workforce Solutions, this industry had 20,100 jobs evaporated with the implementation of shelter-in-place orders from the government.
The other industry with the highest job loss was trade, transportation, and utilities – 7,100 vanished. Followed by, professional and business services had 3,700 jobs stripped from our community.
The Valley has seen 41,600 jobs wiped out of our economy compared to 15,600 for Web County.
The unemployment levels in our region are consistent with the national and state trends for April. The situation should change because shelter-in-place orders have been removed, and the economy is being allowed to operate at a higher capacity, especially in the leisure and hospitality section. The unknown factor is how many businesses will close their doors for good due to the pandemic.