Jobless claims rise in Far West Texas as stay-at-home orders, travel ban keep shops closed


El Paso losing the most jobs in six-county region as Mexican shoppers vanish, bars and most restaurants close

Businesses remain closed in Downtown El Paso, as the number of unemployment claims rises. (photo by Julian Resendiz/Border Report)

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — A total of 37,227 people have lost their jobs since March 15 in Far West Texas.

The latest weekly claims

And with El Paso renewing its stay-at-home order and the U.S. extending international travel restrictions due to COVID-19 in a region that’s heavily dependent on trade with Mexico, there’s no telling when the layoffs will stop.

The latest first-time unemployment claims report by Workforce Solutions Borderplex shows an increase of 6,451 for the week ended April 17 in the six-county region that includes El Paso, Brewster, Culberson, Hudspeth, Jeff Davis and Presidio.

Most of the claimants were formerly employed in food preparation and serving, sales or management, which is consistent with the closing of bars, most restaurants and shopping centers. According to Workforce Solution Borderplex, the weeks of March 22-28 and March 29-April 4 produced the highest number of claims in the region, with 9,546 and 9,717, respectively.

An overwhelming number of the new unemployment claims are coming from El Paso. Cities in the five mostly rural counties account only for 525 of the 24,241 claimants since March 29, the report shows. In El Paso, more than 8,000 of the recent claims come from just three ZIP codes — 79936, 79938 and 79928 — all located in East and Far East El Paso.

A week-by-week breakdown of March claims

The City of El Paso on April 13 voted unanimously to extend its stay-at-home order, which also compels non-essential businesses to close.

On Monday, Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Chad Wolf announced a 30-day extension of restrictions to non-essential travel between the United States and Mexico, as well as the United States and Canada.

“As President Trump stated last week, border control, travel restrictions, and other limitations remain critical to slowing the spread of coronavirus and allowing the phased opening of the country,” Wolf said on Twitter.

Border cities like El Paso are heavily dependent on trade, be it the thousands of trucks that come from Mexico daily bearing assembled parts for U.S. industry or the tens of thousands of people who drive or walk across to shop in stores. Since the travel restrictions were first enacted last month, U.S. ports of entry are reporting only a fraction of their usual traffic.

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The mission of is to provide real-time delivery of the untold local stories about people living, working and migrating along the U.S. border with Mexico. The information is gathered by experienced and trusted Nexstar Media Group journalists hired specifically to cover the border.