Greater Austin jobless rate falls to 7.5% as federal unemployment help approaches expiration

Unemployment claims dropped in the Central Texas area in June, according to Texas Workforce Commission data. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Unemployment claims dropped in the Central Texas area in June, according to Texas Workforce Commission data. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)

Unemployment claims dropped in the Central Texas area in June, according to Texas Workforce Commission data. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)

After two straight months of double-digit unemployment rates, the Austin-Round Rock metropolitan area showed signs of recovery in June as the jobless rate fell to 7.5%, according to the Texas Workforce Commission; however, officials expect a more acute impact on those who remain unemployed as federal jobless benefits are set to expire this month.

The pandemic propelled the metro’s unemployment to 12.2% in April and 11.4% in May. June’s 7.5% rate represented 90,887 residents seeking benefits, down from 132,803 in the month prior. Texas recorded a statewide unemployment of 8.9% in June; the national rate that month stood at 11.2%, according to the TWC. In the commission’s narower Capital Area/Travis County region, the unemployment rate fell from 11.6% in May to 7.6% in June.

Since March 1, 75% of all jobless claims in the Capital Area/Travis County area came from those making less than $50,000 per year, according to Workforce Solutions Capital Area, the quasigovernmental local arm of the workforce commission. A spokesperson said about half of those claims came from people previously making less than $30,000 per year, or up to $625 per week.

The organization did not provide statistics on what portion of those still unemployed made under $50,000 per year.

Tamara Atkinson, CEO of Workforce Solution Capital Area, said in a statement that she was concerned about how the expiration of the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program, which paid Americans who lost their jobs because of the coronavirus an additional $600 per week, would impact low-income earners still looking for a job.

“While many people in Travis County are still seeking work or training opportunities at a volume much higher than before the pandemic—with many more to come—our financial resources are scheduled to be further stretched,” Atkinson said in a statement.

The federal program will expire July 25. Lawmakers have publicly discussed avenues for an extension of the benefits, but nothing has been set as of press time.

For many of the jobless in the Travis County area, the federal unemployment program meant they were making more money by not working than at the job they previously held.

Workforce Solutions’ Jameson Cardenas said that when the program expires, the organization expects a greater urgency for job seekers and greater demand for Workforce Solutions’ services in job training and matching.

However, amid that increased demand for unemployment services, funding from the federal Workforce Innovation & Opportunity Act program is set to decrease by 15% on Oct. 1, according to a Workforce Solutions press release. The program aims to give support and training to those looking for a job.

Atkinson said the 15% reduction is due to how well the region’s economy was doing between June 2018 and July 2019.

“Our federal funding does not take into account the current pandemic and work necessary for workforce boards and communities to create a stronger, safer, smarter workforce,” Atkinson said in the press release. “Low-income adult workers and dislocated workers living in Travis County, who are usually eligible for WIOA and are most impacted by the pandemic, will be more so affected as our capacity to support them decreases.”

Residents seeking jobless help can contact Workforce Solutions at 512-549-4967 or visit their website.
By Christopher Neely
Christopher Neely is Community Impact's Austin City Hall reporter. A New Jersey native, Christopher moved to Austin in 2016 following years of community reporting along the Jersey Shore. His bylines have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Sun, USA Today and several other local outlets along the east coast.


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