Valley jobless numbers edge up but bigger loss looms

HARLINGEN — Texas’ seasonally adjusted unemployment rate held steady at 3.5 percent in January as it continues its flirtation with record lows, the Texas Workforce Commission reported.

All that may be about to change.

The Texas economy added 279,900 seasonally adjusted nonfarm jobs over the year, including 19,500 jobs added over the month for January. Annual employment growth for Texas was 2.2 percent in January, marking 117 consecutive months of annual growth.

Industries adding jobs in January included Leisure and Hospitality, which added 8,100 jobs; Government, which added 4,800 jobs; and Education and Health Services, which added 4,400 positions.

The hospitality sector in particular is expected to be hit hard by presumably temporary job losses due to closings and cutbacks due to coronavirus.

In fact, the National Restaurant Association predicted Wednesday in a letter to the White House and Congress that it estimates the hospitality sector will lose an estimated $225 billion in sales over the next three months, leading to the loss of between five and seven million jobs.

Many states have shut down restaurants and bars, including Ohio, which was among the first to shutter these locations last Sunday evening. Since then, the state reports a nearly 600 percent increase in unemployment benefit applications over the previous week.

Locally in January, the Brownsville-Harlingen Metropolitan Statistical Area saw its jobless rate jump from 5.7 percent in December to 6.3 percent. Last January it was 6.5 percent.

In McAllen-Edinburg-Mission MSA, the jobless rate jumped from 7.0 percent in December to 7.6 percent. A year ago in January it was 7.4 percent.

These job numbers in the Valley MSAs were not affected by any coronavirus-related job losses, which may begin showing up in the February report.