HOUSTON Outlook – (Wells Fargo)
Nearly 380,000 Houstonians have filed for unemployment insurance between March 21 and May 2. Sectors with the most claims include full-service restaurants, offices of dentists, temporary help services, department stores, and limited-service restaurants. Local claims will likely top 400,000 by the end of May. Houston’s unemployment rate will mirror the national rate, hitting the mid-teens in April and possibly reaching 20 percent in May.
Baker Hughes reports the number of rigs actively drilling for oil or gas fell to 339 in mid-May, a 57.4 percent drop from since the first of the year. There are fewer rigs working in the U.S. today than there were at the bottom of the fracking bust when count fell to 404 rigs in May ’16.
The U.S. is in a severe recession caused by the sudden shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the lockdown began, the nation has lost 21.4 million jobs. Employers cut 881,000 in March and another 20.5 million in April, the largest one-month loss in the nation’s history. Losses already exceed those of the Great Recession, in which 8.7 million Americans were laid off.
More than 1.8 million workers in Texas have filed initial claims for unemployment insurance since mid-March. Though claims peaked in early April, they remain elevated as the Texas Workforce Commission struggles to process a backlog of applications. Employment data for the state and its 25 metro areas won’t be released until May 22, but unemployment rates and job loss percentages will likely mirror that of the U.S.
The oil markets have begun the slow and painful recovery process from the collapse brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. At the peak, 4 billion people lived under some form of restriction or isolation, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). Since mid-April, 65 countries have reopened. IEA expects the number of people living under restrictions should drop to 2.8 billion by the end of May. Another 85 countries will ease restrictions in June.