EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – The April labor market review produced by the Borderplex Workforce Solutions was released Friday evening, giving insight in the worst unemployment rate in at least 29-years in El Paso.
According to the report, El Paso’s unemployment rate hit 14.8 percent in April; which is higher than the statewide average of 12.8 percent.
April 2020’s unemployment rate is worse than the highest unemployment rate on record for El Paso of 13.4 percent in January 1991. Back in 1991, the recession was short-lived, lasting just eight months as a result of restrictive monetary policy enacted by the Federal Reserve. Unemployment data provided by the St.Louis Fed does not track unemployment information for El Paso before January 1990.
By comparison, April 2019 had a record low unemployment of 3.3 percent in El Paso.
As KTSM previously reported, an estimated 60,000 people filed for unemployment since March. According to the labor market review report, some of those claimants were able to begin work again since making their initial claim. They now say 49,525 individuals in the region are without work; this includes areas of Brewster, Culberson, Hudspeth, Jeff Davis, and Presidio Counties.
One of the hardest-hit areas is Presidio County, which went from a 5.1 percent unemployment rate in April 2019 to a 20.7 percent unemployment rate in April 2020.
The unemployment numbers come as Governor Greg Abbott begins allowing more businesses, including bars and tattoo parlors. Throughout Texas, those businesses were permitted to start reopening on Friday, May 22.
That’s not the case with El Paso.
Due to high hospitalization rates, Governor Abbott allowed an exemption for El Paso County to remain closed an additional week in hopes of lowering the number of hospitalizations due to COVID-19. As of Saturday, state data showed only 34 available ICU beds in the region. City and County officials said Thursday that they are not looking to extend that timeline past El Paso’s May 29 phased reopening date.
A report from El Paso Matters shows coronavirus job losses have disproportionately impacted women and young people. According to their analysis, the “crisis has highlighted El Paso’s employment structure, which pays wages well below other regional cities and relies heavily on hospitality and retail jobs.”
Even as parts of the economy, including retail and hospitality industries, begin reopening, it’s unclear how long it will take for shoppers and patrons of those businesses to feel comfortable returning to their pre-pandemic shopping habits.