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Dallas Fed: Texas loses 52,119 jobs in March; April unemployment may be near 12.4 percent

For Immediate Release: April 17, 2020

DALLAS—Texas lost 52,119 jobs in March, a 4.7 percent annualized decline, according to seasonally adjusted and benchmarked payroll employment numbers released today by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. Since the data measure employment during the second week in March, they do not reflect the full impact of business layoffs in response to the coronavirus. The state gained a revised 41,664 jobs in February.

Weekly claims for unemployment insurance suggest that the large impacts began in the second half of the month and will thus have a greater impact on April jobs, according to the latest Texas Employment Forecast.

“In March, the Texas Leading Index declined at its steepest pace since the data series began in January 1981, suggesting large declines in jobs in the months ahead,” said Keith Phillips, Dallas Fed assistant vice president and senior economist. “Significant uncertainties remain about when social distancing will ease up and how this will take place. This uncertainty means it is very difficult to know the pattern of growth in the economy in the second half of the year.”

The Texas unemployment rate increased from 3.5 percent in February to 4.7 percent in March, but like the jobs data, did not fully reflect the impact of social distancing. Recent increases in weekly initial claims for unemployment insurance in Texas suggest large job losses from mid-March to mid-April, according to Phillips. For the four weeks ending April 18, Phillips estimates total active claims will be about 1.5 million.

“This historically large increase in claims suggests that the April unemployment rate may be near 12.4 percent, although several caveats exist,” Phillips said. “Since potential claimants have overwhelmed the Texas Workforce Commission’s phone lines, this likely has delayed the number of claims filed, and thus the unemployment rate may be higher than what the claims data suggest. It is also the case, however, that many unemployed may not be looking for work due to social distancing rules and may not be counted in the labor force, which would mean the standard measure of unemployment may be lower than what the claims data indicate.”

Unemployment rates rose in all nine major Texas metro areas in March, according to seasonally adjusted numbers from the Dallas Fed.

The Dallas Fed improves Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) payroll employment estimates for Texas by incorporating preliminary benchmarks into the data in a more timely manner and by using a two-step seasonal-adjustment technique. Texas metropolitan-area unemployment rates from the BLS also are seasonally adjusted by the Dallas Fed.


Media contact:
Jennifer Chamberlain
Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas
Phone: (214) 922-6748