Editor’s note: This is a developing story and will be updated.
Texas reported a net loss of 27,500 nonfarm jobs in February, the first monthly decline in employment since hiring resumed in May after the coronavirus pandemic had prompted lockdowns nationwide.
The statewide unemployment rate ticked up to 6.9% last month, and remained above the U.S. rate of 6.2%.
While Texas lost jobs last month, the U.S. added 379,000 nonfarm jobs in February, and the national unemployment rate has been improving faster than the state rate.
Economists attributed the Texas decline to the winter storm that shut down power in much of the state last month, in some cases for several days. They expect hiring to rebound sharply in coming months, and by the end of the year, they project that Texas will recoup all the jobs lost during the pandemic.
After the pandemic arrived last winter and many businesses were forced to lock down, Texas lost 1.4 million jobs in April. The state had been adding jobs every month since May, although the recovery has been uneven.
As COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations rose — often in waves — people would pull back on activity and job growth would slow. In January, Texas added 39,000 jobs, down from almost 66,000 in December.
The latest jobs report provides a fuller picture of the pandemic’s impact on the labor market in Texas. From February 2020 to February 2021, Texas lost 593,300 jobs — a 4.6% decline in total employment.
“Although we saw a slight decrease in employment numbers last month, we still see strength in the Texas economy,” Texas Workforce Commission Chairman Bryan Daniel said in a statement..
COVID-19 cases have fallen sharply as millions nationwide get vaccinated against the virus. But that wasn’t enough to boost hiring in Texas last month, not with the storm and power outages.
From January to February, the state lost jobs in many sectors, including construction, manufacturing and government. Professional and business services, which has often been a strong performer during the recovery, lost 23,000 jobs last month, the state reported.
Leisure and hospitality, the hardest-hit industry during the pandemic, lost another 5,800 jobs in February — and is down over 205,000 positions since a year earlier.
Mining and logging, which includes the oil and gas business, added 1,800 jobs, although it remains far below year-ago levels. Trade, transportation and utilities added 14,800, and was up by 1,900 jobs, year over year.
In the Dallas-Plano-Irving metro division, the February unemployment rate was 6.7%, and the rate for Fort Worth-Arlington was 7%, according to the state.
Among Texas metros, Amarillo had the lowest unemployment at 5.1% while Odessa’s rate was 11.9%.