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.


MOST RECENT

The first COVID-19 vaccines are on their way to Austin. (Courtesy Baylor College of Medicine)
Thousands of Austin-area healthcare workers will receive Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine by mid-December

The Austin area is set to receive 13,650 doses of the vaccine by mid-December for healthcare workers in Travis, Hays and Williamson counties.

Foodie's Corner and Weikel's Bakery are now open in Leander. (Taylor Girtman/Community Impact Newspaper)
Foodie's Corner, Weikel's Bakery open in Leander and more Austin-area news

Read the latest business and community news from the Central Texas area.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced Dec. 2 that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has allotted 1.4 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccines to the state of Texas. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Austin Public Health leaders offer insight on COVID-19 vaccine distribution schedule

Local physicians could administer does fo the Pfizer vaccine to high-priority individuals as soon as Dec. 17, one official said.

Traffic moves along the upper decks of I-35 near downtown Austin on Dec. 1. The Texas Department of Transportation is seeking public feedback on a $4.9 billion project to improve the 8-mile stretch of I-35 through downtown. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Residents question TxDOT spending on I-35 and more Central Texas news

Read the most popular stories from the past week from the Austin area.

Local Austin act the Peterson Brothers perform at the historic Continental Club in 2019. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin City Council experiment could send $15 million in hotel taxes to 'iconic' music venues, restaurants

The move represents the latest attempt by the city to save live music venues and restaurants that are struggling through the pandemic.

A proposed mixed-use development at the Brodie Oaks Shopping Center in Southwest Austin would invest $1 billion over a decade and could start construction in 2022 or 2023. (Rendering courtesy Lionheart Places/WP Visions LLC San Antonio)
$1 billion development project on its way to Southwest Austin along Barton Creek Greenbelt

The project would include 3 million square feet of hotel, residential, office, retail and restaurant space along with 13.7 acres of green space.

Early voting opens Dec. 3 for runoff elections for Austin City Council and the Austin ISD board of trustees. (Ali Linan/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin runoff elections: Who is on the ballot, where to vote and when polls are open

Polls open at 7 a.m. Dec. 3 for early voting in the runoff election. Two Austin City Council positions and two Austin ISD board seats are open.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced Dec. 2 that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has allotted 1.4 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccines to the state of Texas. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
First allotment of COVID-19 vaccinations expected to arrive in Texas in mid-December

About 1.4 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccines have been allotted to the state of Texas and will arrive the week of Dec. 14.

Frontyard Brewing opened Nov. 14 in Spicewood. (Amy Rae Dadamo/Community Impact Newspaper)
New brewery opens in Spicewood and more Central Texas news

Read the latest business and community updates from Central Texas.

The proposal from Aspen Heights Partners would place two towers—one residential and one office—on the downtown tract. (Courtesy Austin Economic Development Department)
Two towers, 590,000 square feet of housing and office space on table for former HealthSouth property in downtown Austin

The 1.7-acre downtown tract is among the most valuable undeveloped areas in the city's portfolio.

Traffic moves along the upper decks of I-35 near downtown Austin on Dec. 1. The Texas Department of Transportation is seeking public feedback on a $4.9 billion project to improve the 8-mile stretch of I-35 through downtown. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
TxDOT is spending billions to fix I-35 through downtown Austin, but some community members say the state is wrong in its approach

A report from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute released Dec. 1 said the 8-mile stretch of I-35 from Hwy. 290 to SH 71 is the most congested roadway in the state.