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Worst economic report in U.S. history has dire impact on Houston, expert says

The Houston region has lost 350,000 jobs -- that's 1 out of every 9 jobs -- since March.

HOUSTON — New data shows just how badly COVID-19 has crippled the U.S. economy.

"This is the worst quarter we've seen in well over 100 years," Patrick Jankowski, senior vice president of research at the Greater Houston Partnership, said.

Thursday morning saw reports that the second quarter suffered the worst economic decline on record as the GDP contracted by 32.9%.

Unemployment claims climbed again nationally this week: 54 million Americans have filed for unemployment over the last 19 weeks.

Locally, the numbers are equally grim.

"Houston's struggling and has been since the middle of March," Jankowski said.

Jankowski said the Houston region lost 350,000 jobs -- that's one out of every nine jobs in the Houston area. Since Texas reopened, the area has recouped 130,000 jobs, but that still leaves us with a 220,000-job deficit.

"Any way you look at it this is worse than the Great Recession was," Jankowski said while referring to the economic downturn from 2007 to 2009 when the U.S. housing bubble burst and there was a global financial crisis.

In a boom year, Houston usually creates 110,000 jobs.

But that won't happen this year.

"The current job market is weak," Jankowski said.

Who is hiring in Houston?

There is some hiring happening. Manufacturing industries not tied to oil and gas are doing slightly better.

Local healthcare companies are looking for workers, as are companies like Amazon, Dominos, grocery stores -- even local school districts.

Jankowski said industries that depend on face-to-face interactions with people are going to be challenged for the next few quarters.

Restaurants, retail, travel and hospitality industries are really struggling. Businesses in those sectors have had to close or severely scale back and lay off workers.

"In a 'normal' week, we should see 4,000 people filing (for unemployment)," Jankowski said. "We're (seeing) 24,000 people filing."

That's a six-fold increase in Houston, where 260,000 people have been filing for unemployment for more than two weeks -- a number that is usually around 30,000.

Coronavirus and the Houston economy

What's worse, Jankowski said, is that there's no end in sight.

"The outlook is very uncertain," he said. "I wish I could tell you when we could see healthy job growth. I wish I could tell you when we'll see positive GDP growth. But it all depends on the virus. The virus is driving everything. If we continue to see a high level of cases, we won't see a reopening of the economy."

The key to recovery, Jankowski said, is beating the virus and renewing consumer confidence.

People need to feel safe to participate in the economy. Right now, the data indicates that they don't.