The unemployment rate is the percentage of total employees in the labor force that are without a job. Over the past several months, Dallas has seen historically high unemployment rates in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Residents have flocked to the unemployment insurance office in record numbers, seeking to file for unemployment benefits. There has been confusion and miscommunication between both the federal government and state governments, resulting in thousands of unemployed Texans receiving little to no financial relief. In this article we will recount the history of unemployment in Dallas and how the unemployment rate may change moving forward.
History of Unemployment in Dallas:
In April and May of 2019, Dallas saw its lowest unemployment rates in almost four decades, around three percent. In stark contrast, Dallas saw its highest ever unemployment rates in those same two months in 2020, at 13% and 12.8% respectively. The only other time Dallas has seen unemployment numbers remotely close to those seen in April and May was following the financial crisis in 2008, when the unemployment rate rose to around eight percent, taking several years to recover to a normal rate. Prior to 2008, the unemployment rate often fluctuated between four and six percent. While the unemployment rates seen during the COVID-19 pandemic are significantly higher than those seen during and after the 2008 financial crisis, the recent unemployment rates have been ignited by a health crisis rather than any true issues with the economy, which should spell a quicker recovery than that which followed 2008.
With so many Texans out of work, the economy has slowed to a crawl. Texas sales tax revenue is down nearly six percent since August 2019, reflecting the increase in unemployment and tightening of budgets. The sales tax revenue is the largest source of funding for the Texas state budget, meaning the longer this unprecedented unemployment spike lasts, the more difficult it will be for Texas to bounce back. Between the COVID-19 health crisis, high unemployment rate, and weakened oil prices, Texas has found itself in a recession and the only way to get back on track is to get Texans back to work.
So how does Texas plan to recover from this spike in unemployment rates and subsequent economic recession? Well, the situation already appears to be on the mend. After unemployment in Dallas reached its peak rate—thirteen percent in the spring of 2019—it slowly but surely dropped to relatively acceptable, albeit still high, levels. In July the unemployment rate in Dallas hit just over eight percent and in August the unemployment rate for Texas was down to nearly seven percent, the lowest rate the state has seen since the COVID-19 shutdowns began. The biggest key for Dallas, and Texas as a whole, getting back on track is moving past COVID-19. Once Texans are clear to return to their normal way of life, unemployment should return to a regular rate.