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Texans filing for unemployment increase 1,600% over two weeks ago

Closed businesses in the Deep Ellum area of Dallas on March 31, 2020. (Cooper Neil for The Texas Tribune)
Closed businesses in the Deep Ellum area of Dallas on March 31, 2020. (Cooper Neil for The Texas Tribune)

The number of Texans applying for unemployment relief continues to climb as more workers are laid off or furloughed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Last week, 275,597 Texans applied — a 1,604% increase over the 16,176 Texans who filed in the week ending March 14.

Those numbers are expected to rise, as Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday issued a statewide stay-at-home order, which allows only essential businesses to operate through April 30. Previously, many cities and counties had already announced similar orders.

Meanwhile many Texans who have been trying to apply for unemployment relief for days or weeks say they can't get through. The crush of people filing has overwhelmed the Texas Workforce Commission's capacity, leading to busy phone lines and website outages.

Both the commission and Abbott have assured worried Texans that all who need relief will get it.

"Just know that you're not going to be denied your claim just because you're having a hard time getting through," Abbott said at a press conference Tuesday.

Nationally, the employment situation is just as dire: 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, doubling the previous week when 3.3 million Americans filed.