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Six months after the coronavirus pandemic began choking the economy, Texas’ unemployment rate in August was 6.8%.
The rate, announced by the U.S. Labor Department, is an improvement from July’s 8% unemployment rate in Texas and progress from the state’s worst-ever jobless months — April and May — when Gov. Greg Abbott closed or limited in-person commerce across the state.
But after Abbott sought to reenergize the flailing economy by allowing businesses to reopen, the coronavirus spread rapidly through Texas, eventually leading Abbott to reverse some of his economic decisions.
Abbott on Thursday again began loosening restrictions for restaurants and other businesses in most regions of Texas. Retail stores, restaurants and office buildings, which have been allowed to open at 50% capacity, will be permitted to expand to 75% capacity. Hospitals will be allowed to offer elective procedures again and nursing homes can reopen for visitations under certain standards.
“I know this is welcome news to everyone watching and all the business owners out there,” Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said alongside Abbott at Thursday’s announcement.
But the Texas Restaurant Association said in a statement Thursday that many restaurants “will continue to struggle to reach the occupancy cap because of the social distancing requirements.”
“We’ve crossed the six-month mark of this crisis,” the statement read, “and it’s no exaggeration to say that the next few weeks will make the difference between tens of thousands of businesses surviving the economic fallout, or being forced to close their doors forever.”
Dr. Seth H. Giertz, an economics professor at the University of Texas at Dallas who used to work in the Congressional Budget Office, wasn’t optimistic about the current trajectory.
“It’s possible we could have bad financial situations and many more businesses collapsing even on the route we’re going now, just because businesses aren’t able to operate the way they were before and they’re not getting the same support,” Giertz said.
Disclosure: University of Texas – Dallas has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.