San Antonio area facing higher unemployment than Great Recession as council extends ‘Stay Home, Work Safe’ order

Decreases in airport traffic, hotel closures, cuts to tax revenue could lead to more than $110M hole in city budget

SAN ANTONIOCLARIFICATION: An earlier version of this article included an incorrect unemployment rate statistic that was based on an inaccurate city presentation. Additionally, the earlier version incorrectly ascribed the unemployment rate projections only to San Antonio, instead of the entire metropolitan area. Both issues have been clarified below.

Dramatic decreases in airport traffic, sales tax revenue, and rapidly climbing unemployment are already appearing as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfurl in San Antonio.

In a presentation to city council members on Thursday, top city staff presented the latest figures and projections related to the pandemic. The information was discussed before the council unanimously voted to formally extend the mayor’s “Stay Home, Work Safe” order to April 9.

San Antonio is facing a projected unemployment rate of 12-14 percent for March, Deputy City Manager Maria Villagomez said. That projection would far surpass the 7.7 percent unemployment rate the San Antonio-New Braunfels Metropolitan Statistical Area faced in Nov. 2010 following the Great Recession, according to data from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.

The economist who created the projection, Steve Nivin, later clarified to KSAT that the March projection also pertained to the entire metro area, not just the city of San Antonio.

Meanwhile, Villagomez said the city could be looking at a $110 million to $158 million hole in its operating budget for this fiscal year, with a decrease in several key revenues. The city’s budget for this fiscal year, which lasts through September, totals about $2 billion.

Traffic at San Antonio International Airport was down 90 percent on Tuesday, Villagomez said, and many hotels have closed amid reports of occupancy rates under 10 percent. More than a dozen events at the Convention Center and Alamodome have been canceled or postponed, and officials are anticipating a 17 percent decrease in sales tax revenue.

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