El Paso rental assistance

The El Paso economy added 7,200 jobs last month, Workforce Solutions Borderplex reported Monday, July 20. It was the second month of gains after a loss of more than 40,100 jobs in April, when the coronavirus pandemic and the widespread closures that followed led to historic layoffs.

The El Paso County unemployment rate fell to 9.9% in June, down from 14.6% the month before as some businesses began to reopen.

“We know that restaurants and bars were allowed to reopen to an extent, and this is a reflection of that,” Leila Melendez, CEO of Workforce Solutions Borderplex, said in an email interview.

But a spike in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations this month is threatening to derail a fragile economic recovery and forcing businesses to face the specter of a longer-term financial crisis.

The novel coronavirus has now killed 218 people in El Paso, and 317 were hospitalized as of Friday. The El Paso Public Health Department reported a rolling 7-day COVID-19 positivity rate of 14.5% Friday. That means for every 100 people tested, more than 14 of them tested positive for the novel coronavirus. That’s about double the rate in June.

The El Paso Department of Public health has attributed the latest increase, in part, to a spike in infections among young people.

“We believe the overall employment rate will have periods of flattening while more cases are reported, reflecting the reluctance of consumers and employees returning to market and to work,” Melendez said.

On July 31, the extra federal unemployment benefit that has been a lifeline for some Americans during the pandemic is scheduled to end. It provides an additional $600 per week for the unemployed, and when that aid lapses, it could drive more people back into the workforce.

“The real test to the unemployment rate will show up in August,” Melendez said. “That’s when we’ll get a sense of how much labor supply returns to look for work and which industries will show the largest demand and hiring.”

Email Robert Gray at rsgray@elpasoinc.com or call (915) 534-4422.


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