As Texans watch Chinese coronavirus cases continue to slowly grow in number and claim lives, skyrocketing jobless numbers tell a tale of the financial devastation wrought by the pandemic on Texas families.

According to data from the Texas Workforce Commission, over 1.37 million Texans have filed unemployment claims since March 14, the day after Gov. Greg Abbott declared a statewide public health disaster due to the coronavirus.

As of April 22, TWC puts the total number of COVID-19 unemployment claims at 1,407,238—10 percent of the state’s labor force and double the number of claims filed in all of 2019.

DFW Metroplex-area workers accounted for nearly a quarter of jobless claims filed from March 15 through April 11, the latest period for which county data is available.

Over 240,000 Texans in Collin, Dallas, Denton, and Tarrant counties filed for unemployment benefits in those four weeks—23 percent of the statewide total for the period.

The numbers represent spikes of 1,000 to 2,000 percent over last year.

They also represent real people with real families to feed and bills to pay.

Real people like small-business owner Jaime Wiggins, who announced this week that she had to close her Amazeballz bakery—which she grew from her home kitchen to three locations in Allen, Plano, and Garland—leaving herself and her employees looking for work.

Not every out-of-work Texan is included in the jobless numbers. Anna, a self-employed McKinney resident, said she’s been shut down but can’t file for unemployment because her business was just getting started and her income hasn’t yet covered her expenses.

Workers in retail, personal services, entertainment, and other industries deemed not “essential” have been hardest hit by the shutdowns.

But it’s not only so-called “non-essential” workers finding themselves unemployed. TWC numbers by industry show healthcare workers have filed the third-highest volume of jobless claims, behind retail and accommodation/food service employees.

“My wife was laid off in a big group from her job as a nurse at a hospital in DFW today,” a local resident shared on Facebook last week, just one of many similar stories being told across the state.

That may start to change as elective medical procedures are allowed to resume statewide starting today. But hundreds of thousands of Texans are still waiting to find out when they can get back to work, and calls are growing to safely reopen the state’s economy now.

As of April 22, COVID-19 has claimed the lives of 517 Texans, out of 20,196 verified cases, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

It’s not yet known how many businesses will be permanently closed and jobs lost due to the coronavirus shutdowns.

Both sets of numbers are sure to rise, but state and local officials can make decisions that mitigate both at the same time, and residents are asking them to do so quickly before the economic devastation grows worse.

“The longer we wait, the more damage is being done to Texans’ livelihoods,” State Rep. Kyle Biedermann (R–Fredericksburg) wrote in a letter to Abbott on Monday. “The government does a poor job of supporting people’s financial well-being, and we shouldn’t force them and their families to rely on the government.”

Erin Anderson

Erin Anderson is a Senior Journalist for Texas Scorecard, reporting on state and local issues, events, and government actions that impact people in communities throughout Texas and the DFW Metroplex. A native Texan, Erin grew up in the Houston area and now lives in Collin County.