Unemployment Soars Across U.S.

CH weekly ui claims march 21
Photo courtesy of CNBC.

By Terrance Turner

Last week, 3.28 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits, according to the Labor Department. That is the largest number since the Dept. began collecting data in 1967. It’s also nearly five times the previous record of 695,000 filings in October 1982.

In Texas, there’s a similar pattern. Last week, over 155,000 out-of-work Texans filed for unemployment. According to KPRC, that’s a 215% increase from the worst recorded week during the “Great Recession” in Texas, when almost 50,000 people filed in a week. Last year, an average of about 13,600 Texans filed new unemployment claims each week.

“The unique situation that we’re presented with, with regard to COVID-19, is different than anything anybody in the state has dealt with, with regard to the sheer magnitude of the problem [and] the pervasive nature of the problem and the number of individuals it’s affecting and families it’s affecting,” said Ed Serna, the executive director of the Texas Workforce Commission, during a Facebook Live Q&A Wednesday. Serna told KPRC that the TWC plans to hire additional call center staff and increasing server capacity to accommodate what’s now nearly 30,000 claims a day. Currently, about 75% of commission staff are working from home.

Texans can apply for benefits any time online at https://twc.texas.gov/jobseekers/unemployment-benefits-services#applyForBenefits. But the website is currently experiencing a high volume of users. Alternately, Texans can call the toll-free number 800-939-6631 from Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. The office is also open Saturday starting this week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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