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Job losses continue in Houston as COVID-19 pandemic rages on

The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the Houston area lost 151,600 jobs since October 2019.

HOUSTON — At Toys to Love, a locally owned toy store just outside the loop, 2020 has been unpredictable.

"We have days where hardly anyone is in here," owner Katie Meeks said. "Every single day is a gamble, we have no idea."

The only certainty it seems has been COVID-19

"I have a lot of anxiety for this month with numbers spiking," Meeks said. "This is our crunch time. If we had to close right now that could be a business killer."

It's just one piece of a much larger economic puzzle in Houston. A new report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics paints a picture of a city still in an economic pit. More than 151,000 jobs have been lost since October 2019. That's a 4.8% decline in employment. That is slightly better than a 6% national decline.

"Once you got a shock that big, everyone is going to feel it," professor Dietrich Vollrath said.

Vollrath is Chair of the University of Houston Economics Department. He compares this crisis to falling into a deep hole. He says we're climbing out, but not fast enough.

"We'll be coming out of the hole in the next year, but there's a lot of damage that will be left in the wake," Vollrath said.

The BLS found Houston lost jobs in 10 out of 11 major industries. Food, bars, construction and manufacturing saw some of the biggest losses.

Still, Houston remains an attractive business destination for companies, such as Hewlett Packard Enterprise which is moving its headquarters here by 2022.

Vollrath believes Houston was spared the worst.

"We've been fortunate we didn't have one of these crushing (COVID) waves come through," Vollrath said.

Business owners are hoping that the crippling COVID-19 wave never hits as they try to survive into 2021.

"Definitely the hardest year we've ever had," Meeks said. "Hopefully it'll be the hardest year we ever have."