The unemployment rate in Texas increased to 6.9% in February, which is more than double the record low of 3.4% in May 2019. In February, Texas’ economic struggles were exacerbated as a deadly winter storm knocked large swaths of the state off the power grid for days and made roads impassable. The storm also impacted state sales tax revenue in February.
In March, the number of unemployment claims Texans filed each week jumped to levels not seen since last summer. Experts say that’s due to the February storm and a new congressional aid package that extended some benefits. But economists are optimistic that increased coronavirus vaccinations will help stabilize and improve the state’s economic recovery.
Still, the state’s outdated and understaffed unemployment insurance office has left countless Texans struggling to receive unemployment benefits as they navigate the Texas Workforce Commission’s confusing processes.
Business shutdowns and limits battered Texas companies, which can now largely operate at full capacity. But businesses must choose whether to require their customers wear masks.
A decline in Texas’ sales tax revenue — the largest source of funding for the state budget — has created a shortfall that lawmakers will have to fill in the 2021 legislative session.