Here's how many southeast Texans lost their job during the pandemic

Businesses around the Houston area hopeful Gov. Abbott's recent decision to reopen the state will get unemployed Texans back to work soon.

Video Transcript


- This is a sound so many Texans got sick of hearing. When the pandemic hit a year ago, reaching the unemployment office on the phone was like hitting the lottery. Texas Workforce Commission made changes to improve this, but a year later, a call to TWC still isn't easy.

ELIZABETH KAUFMANN: I could be doing something else that's a little bit more productive than sitting on hold.

- Elizabeth Kaufmann says she's waited for hours. Once she got someone on the phone, the person on the other end told her there was nothing they could do.

ELIZABETH KAUFMANN: It's hard to believe that they haven't trained the non-contracted people to be able to assist you.

- Here's a look at the massive call volume the pandemic brought TWC in March, one week the agency received more than eight million calls. Last April, it received nearly 70 million calls. In, May it was still high at 27 million. The volume has dropped, but it's still higher than normal. Last week, the agency received more than 2 million calls. The agency has made changes to reach more unemployed Texans.

There are four different call centers. They're staffed seven days a week for 12 hours. There are more than 3,300 people answering calls, but the majority are contracted workers. Experts hope the calls will slow down this year.

- Things are moving in the right direction.

- Weekly unemployment claims in Texas have gone from 77,000 a week to less than 9,000. Although it's fewer people, getting through on the phone with TWC remains a challenge a year into the pandemic.

ELIZABETH KAUFMANN: It was just a big relief, I guess, because I was starting to really panic.

- If you're willing to wait, there's a light at the end of the tunnel.