Valley’s unemployment rate continues to increase

Unemployment statistics published by the Texas Workforce Commission for the month of April detailed skyrocketing joblessness rates across the Rio Grande Valley. In Cameron County, the agency documented a 17.4 percent unemployment rate, up nearly seven percent from March.

April’s 17.4 percent unemployment rate represented 26,577 people county wide who did not have jobs. The statistic was a huge increase from the 4.7 percent documented in April of last year, or 7,767 workers.

Cameron County’s unemployment rate is roughly 4 percent higher than Texas’ recorded 13 percent joblessness rate documented this April. Nationwide, the number was slightly higher, at 14.4 percent.

Across the Rio Grande Valley — in Hidalgo, Starr, and Willacy counties, the unemployment rates were significantly higher than the national average, coming in at 18 percent, 24.3 percent, 17.4 percent, respectively.

In the Lower Valley, San Benito had the highest rate of 18.8 percent. At 17.6 percent, Brownsville came in second, with Harlingen’s unemployment rate at 16.6 percent, well above the national average for April. These represented a huge jump from March’s numbers, which were all below 10 percent.

Brownsville’s unemployment rate jumped by almost 10 percent between March and April. In April 2019, only 4.9 percent of city residents were unemployed.

Upper Valley numbers varied — in San Juan, 21.2 percent of workers were unemployed, the highest rate Valley-wide. Pharr came in at 20 percent, Weslaco at 18.6 percent, and Mission at 17.7 percent. McAllen and Edinburg saw high but significantly lower numbers, at a 15.9 and 14.1 percent unemployment rate.

A chart published by the Texas Workforce Commission displayed joblessness rates in Starr, Willacy, Hidalgo, Cameron, and Webb counties jumping roughly 10 points above the highest recorded unemployment rates since 2017.

Workforce Solutions’ Lower Rio Grande Valley April 2020 Labor Market report stated Texas experienced a loss of 1,298,900 nonagricultural jobs in April. The area was hit by significant job loss in the leisure and hospitality sectors in April. McAllen’s workforce saw 11,800 of those jobs disappear. Brownsville lost 8,300, while Laredo lost 9,100 hospitality positions.

Other hard-hit industries included trade, transportation, and utilities, as well as professional and business services. Healthcare and private education experienced less job loss, but still represented significant portions of jobs lost.

Important to note is that the unemployment rates officials cannot include positions and income lost by day laborers and undocumented residents who contribute to the Valley’s economy without legal authorization.

A recent Rice University study found that Texas takes in an estimated $1.21 in tax revenue for every $1 the government spends on undocumented residents, challenging the narrative that unauthorized workers damage the economy.

Researchers cited state figures from 2018 indicating the State of Texas had an estimated 1.6 million in undocumented residents, representing 5.7 percent of the total population.