Photo: ROBYN BECK, AFP/Getty Images
Joblessness in the Laredo area shot up to 13.6% in April, with 14,213 residents having filed unemployment claims brought on by the coronavirus crisis and subsequent crash in the oil and gas industry.
In the 30 years of data made available by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there have never been so many unemployment claims filed in Laredo in a single month. However, in the mid-1990s when the city’s population was smaller, unemployment reached rates as high as 17.7%. This occurred in the months following the Mexican peso devaluation in December 1994.
Leisure and hospitality work took the biggest hit in Laredo in April, with an 80% loss in jobs from the month before. In March, 11,300 Laredoans worked in this industry. By the end of April, 9,100 of them had lost their job, according to state data.
In Laredo’s largest industry — trade, transportation and utilities — employment fell by 8% from March, a loss of about 2,500 jobs.
Professional and business services jobs fell by 24%; jobs in “other services” fell by 21%; information jobs fell by 13%; construction and oil and gas fell by 3%; and government jobs fell by about 1%.
The only industry that suffered no job loss was manufacturing, of which there are only about 700 local employees.
Laredo’s 13.6% unemployment rate is slightly higher than the state’s, which is at 13% in April.
Workforce Solutions for South Texas Executive Director Rogelio Treviño said it is not uncommon for Laredo’s unemployment to be higher than the state’s, just by virtue of being on the border.
The COVID-19 crisis began in late March, and Laredo was under a full-blown stay at home order by April. This lasted through the whole month, but began to be lifted in part by May 1, when restaurants and retailers were permitted to open again by Gov. Greg Abbott.
Treviño hopes that April’s unemployment data is as bad as it gets now that many workers are being called back to their jobs. He notes, however, that there’s always a lag in unemployment data, so he’s not sure that May will result in a significant decrease.
However, the claims have slowed. The worst week was April 19-26 when nearly 3,000 Laredoans filed for unemployment. The following week, 1,800 people filed, and the week after that it was 1,300, Treviño noted.