There was encouraging news in the past month as we welcomed Tesla to the Capital Area, and BAE Systems announced their major expansion of operations. And, Thursday, Governor Abbott said Texas would apply for federal funding that would reinstate, retroactive to August 1, an additional $300 per week pandemic stipend to jobless Texans. While unclear how long funds for the new stipend will last (more details below), Majority Leader McConnell, Speaker Pelosi, and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin have suggested they may restart discussions of a federal stimulus. Also, Austin’s July unemployment rate fell on Friday to 6.7%. However, last month’s unemployment is still 2.5x where we were before the pandemic began in February.
The other side: On Friday, the Labor Department reported that the number of Americans filing new unemployment claims in the week ending August 15 rose by 135,000 to 1.1 million. Economists had expected the tally to continue to dip. The increase is disconcerting given there’s less incentive to file for unemployment with the expiration at the end of July of the $600 a week pandemic stipend for unemployed workers. Even with the growth in employment seen over the past few monthly jobs reports, many people remain out of work, and many businesses continue to shed jobs.
The bright side: Two weeks ago, led by Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison, with the support of Mayor Adler, Council Members Alter, Casar, Tovo, Flannigan and each member of Austin City Council – Phase 1 of Workforce Solutions’ rapid retraining plan was placed into their draft FY21 budget. Beginning October 1, this will allow Workforce Solutions to rapidly integrate our training, childcare, transportation, digital inclusion, and other providers and build out a pilot system to initially help 130 of our jobless friends and neighbors rapidly train and move into higher-paying occupations for 2021. But to fund Phase 2, federal stimulus talks will need to provide workforce development and state and local funds to assist in stimulating the economy.
Below, you’ll find the latest unemployment data for Texas and quickly catch up on policy changes and reemployment funding outlook. Please let me know if you have any questions. In partnership, Tamara
In partnership, Tamara
Austin unemployment rate continues to fall, while the job market buckles, as unemployment reaches 6.7% in July 2020
According to the latest figures released by TWC on 8/21, the unemployment rate for Texas (8.2%) is below the national unemployment rate (10.5%).
- June unemployment in the Capital Area/Travis Co decreased from 7.5% in June to 6.9% in July, representing 50,485 jobless residents.
- The overall June Austin-Round Rock MSA rate is slightly lower at 6.7%, or 81,942 jobless residents.
- Of note: Self-employed, independent, gig, and contract workers typically ineligible for regular state unemployment (e.g. PUA claimants) are not counted in the monthly unemployment rates.
- Read more in our Newsroom.
Austin/Travis County by the numbers:
Non-traditional claimants typically ineligible for unemployment benefits are represented in the below data.
- New unemployment claims have decreased compared to earlier months in the pandemic, with 9,245 approved claims in July 2020.
- The new filings decreased by the week, from 3,008 the week of July 5 to 1,516 the week of July 28.
- were posted in Austin MSA in July 2020 (-740 from June 2020)
- were posted in Austin MSA from August 1-13, 2020 (-3,564 compared to the same period in 2019)
- when comparing the last week of June with the second week of August.
- 5 workforce boards (Capital Area, Rural Capital, Alamo, Central Texas, and Heart of Texas) are banding together to host Hiring Red, White & You: Warrior Welcome Central Texas, the largest virtual hiring experience for veterans in the state.
- Our published report features employment data from July 1-31 by occupation and demographic for Capital Area/Travis Co.
Catch up quick: COVID-19 workforce policy and funding changes
Here’s the latest scheduled effective dates and why they matter:
Unemployment benefits policy: WFS continues to monitor how these rapid policy changes affect the number of unemployed workers seeking our job matching and training services.
- On Thursday, Gov. Abbott said Texas would apply for federal funding to provide the additional $300 per week pandemic stipend for people who have lost their jobs. The Texas Governor did not indicate that the state intended to boost the payment with an additional $100 per week.
- The $300 enhanced benefit stems from an Executive Memorandum that President Donald Trump signed August 8. State governments are asked, but not required, to contribute $100 to the total.
- The measure limits eligible recipients to those receiving at least $100 a week in state benefits. Those excluded would disproportionately be lower-wage, part-time workers.
- States should be able to begin delivering the payments after applying for funding with FEMA and making technical changes to systems to distribute the money. The Labor Department estimates it will take states an average of three weeks to send out the money. Though there are many variables still at plan, TWC is hoping pandemic checks can go out to Texans as soon as next week.
- Based on the current number of unemployment benefit recipients, a Labor Department official said the $44 billion in funds allocated for the enhanced benefits could be spent as soon as in five or six weeks, if all states participate.
- Since July 25, when the $600 per week Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) expired, no pandemic stipends have been issued for the current 50,485 jobless in Travis County.
- Amid a current four-fold increase in demand for reemployment services, the Workforce Innovation & Opportunity Act (WIOA) program — one of Workforce Solutions Capital Area’s most prominent federal funding sources — is scheduled to be reduced by 15% on October 1, 2020, in about one month.
- The WIOA employment program, offered at no cost for participants, is designed to give job seekers personalized support and training needed to find a job.
- Funding, determined by Congressional formulas, will be cut 15.1 percent for the 2021 fiscal year.
Child care policy: We continue to respond to a high call volume from parents who need our child care services, and we continue to help ensure providers can stay open to serve children, safely.
- On Thursday, TWC approved $106.4M to assist workforce boards and child care providers in addressing higher child care costs resulting from COVID-19. This includes the continuation of the 25% Enhanced Reimbursement Rate through December 2020 and funding full day care for children in school districts that have not started school yet or are 100% virtual right now.
- Enhanced Reimbursement Rate payments are an incentive TWC began in March to encourage providers to stay open and address increased operational costs to serve essential workers.
- WFS currently has 3,239 children in care, and 147 children enrolled in essential worker care. We continue to evaluate continued eligibility through our locally funded Continuity of Care program.