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Economy at a Glance - July 2020

In this edition we offer insight into the COVID-19 pandemic and unemployment in the Houston region.
Published on 7/15/20

Houston: The Economy at a Glance is a free monthly publication, which offers the latest data along with expert commentary on the Houston region’s economy. Below is an excerpt from the report.

COVID-19 Update

The recent surge in COVID-19 cases indicates that elected officials reopened the economy too soon, that too many Americans are flaunting social distancing guidelines, and that the virus is likely to be around longer than we’d hoped. On July 14, the U.S. recorded nearly 59,000 new cases, up from 22,000 cases on June 14. Texas logged 10,745 cases that day, Houston nearly 2,600 cases. That’s a fivefold increase over the month for the state and the metro area.

The outbreak has spurred Mayor Sylvester Turner to call for a two-week statewide shutdown. Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo has advocated for a broad stay-at-home order as well. The decision, however, rests with Texas Governor Greg Abbott, not local officials. Regardless what action he may take, the outbreak has postponed the start of any economic recovery. 

The surge came as the economy showed hints of improvement. The U.S. logged substantial job gains in May and June. The number of workers filing claims for unemployment insurance has been trending down. Sales of new single-family houses rose in May. Retail sales have ticked up as has manufacturing output. Closer to home, the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) reported solid job gains for the state. Recent surveys by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas found that Texas service sector showed signs of growth in June and that factory activity rebounded as well. Houston reported job gains in April and May and single-family home sales set a record in June.

Google Searches for "Unemployment Benefits"
Google Trends, a website that analyzes the popularity of Google searches, shows that queries with the phrase “unemployment benefits” peaked in late March/early April.

Claims for Unemployment Insurance

Initial claims for unemployment benefits peaked at 6.9 million in late March/early April. Google Trends, a website that analyzes the popularity of Google searches, shows that queries with the phrase “unemployment benefits” peaked at the same time. Searches using the selfsame term trended down through June 20 but have ticked up since then. Filtering for searches from only Houston IP addresses shows a slightly sharper increase in recent weeks. That suggests claims for unemployment benefits in Houston will remain elevated and likely rise over the next few weeks.

Business Closures

The popular website Yelp.com publishes crowd-sourced reviews on local restaurants, retailers, entertainment venues and personal services. Yelp reports that 177,000 U.S. business on its site were closed between March 1 and April 19. As of June 15, only 37,000 had reopened. In Houston, the pandemic forced the closure of 3,518 Yelp businesses, of which only 578 had reopened by mid-June. The website does not indicate what share of all Houston businesses this represents, but as a proxy for the region it suggests a substantial number of permanent closures have occurred over the past few weeks.

Continue reading this month's Economy at a Glance for more insight into the COVID-19 pandemic and unemployment in the Houston region. To subscribe to Glance, please click here.

Key July Takeaways

Here are the facts to know about the Houston region this month
1
July Takeaway #1
On July 14, Texas logged 10,745 cases and Houston nearly 2,600 cases. That’s a fivefold increase over the month for the state and the metro area.
2
July Takeaway #2
For the week ending July 10, 35 to 45 percent of Houstonians are no longer traveling to work each day.
3
July Takeaway #3
From June 25-30, 16.9 percent of Houstonians reported living in a home where “sometimes” or “often” there was not enough to eat.

Want to learn more? Contact our Research Team:

Patrick Jankowski, CERP
Senior Vice President, Research
713-844-3616
Elizabeth Balderrama
Manager, Research
713-844-3615

Previous Issues of Economy at a Glance

JUN
2020
COVID-19 Update, Affected Sectors, Energy
Read Report
MAY
2020
U.S. & Texas Outlook, GDP
Read Report
APR
2020
COVID-19 Update, PMI, Industry Outlook
Read Report
MAR
2020
Economic Impact, Global Outlook, Recession Probability
Read Report
FEB
2020
U.S.-China Trade Deal, USMCA
Read Report
JAN
2020
Houston GDP, Energy, Jobs
Read Report
DEC
2019
Sector by Sector Forecast for 2020
Read Report
NOV
2019
Houston Region Demographic Update 2
Read Report
OCT
2019
Houston Region Demographic Update 1
Read Report
SEP
2019
Houston's Growth Engines
Read Report
AUG
2019
PMI, Commercial Real Estate & Housing
Read Report

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