The number of people seeking new unemployment claims rose to 965,000 last week, according to the U.S. Labor Department, the highest since August, as the coronavirus appears to make a resurgence.
Texas unemployment claims surged to 60,000 last week, up from 45,000 the week prior, as countless Texans continue their desperate search for jobs.
"There’s times of sleepless nights," said Joseph Castro. "You toss and turn. I say what happened? And then your mind goes a hundred miles an hour."
The coronavirus pandemic has meant months of stress for Castro who has struggled to survive and find another job after his company abruptly downsized shortly after the virus hit Texas.
"Within an hour it was done," said Castro, recalling how his boss announced the layoffs. "Super blindsided. We had no idea it was coming."
That was April, the month the jobless rate in Texas spiked to 14.2% in the height of 2020 unemployment.
Since then it went down to 7.7% in October, then back up to 8.9% in November. That’s still more than double the pre-pandemic unemployment rate of 3.6% in Texas.
"COVID has been one of the biggest economic impacts to the labor market in quite some time," said Michelle Castrow with Texas Workforce Solutions. "The Houston market is suffering about the same as everybody else."
Texas’ December unemployment rate won’t be released until next week, but on Thursday the U.S. Labor Department announced a national spike in jobless claims.
"The businesses were probably optimistic at first, but now that everything’s dragging out with the vaccine and everything, they’re probably thinking this is going to go longer than we expected," said Anthony Reinking who lost his IT job in the pandemic, going from a $150,000 salary to a $300-a-week unemployment check.
Putting his mortgage on forbearance, he’s scraping by and hoping for a call back on one of his job applications.
"I won’t be living in a cardboard box, but things could be better," said Reinking.
Optimism gets him through it--the same with Castro who says prayer is what keeps him positive through months of job hunting and working odd jobs.
"Pray at night, pray in the morning, and just complete trust and faith, because if not, it would drive me crazy," said Castro.