FILE - Texas State Capitol

American and Texas state flags flying on the dome of the Texas State Capitol building in Austin.

(The Center Square) – The Texas labor market reported an employment high of 12,998,200 nonagricultural jobs in November, surpassing its pre-pandemic employment high of 12,970,000 jobs in February 2020, according to new data from the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC).

Texas reported 75,100 nonagricultural jobs were added in November and an unemployment rate of 5.2%. Since November 2020, Texas has added 698,700 jobs, the TWC reported.

"Texas continues to reach unprecedented milestones thanks to our unwavering commitment to economic freedom and our young, skilled, growing, and diverse workforce,” Gov. Greg Abbott said. "By reaching nearly 13 million jobs last month, Texas has surpassed our pre-pandemic employment levels – a remarkable achievement and testament to our welcoming business climate and strong workforce."

“Reaching this milestone for job creation in Texas shows the strength of our economy,” TWC Chair Bryan Daniel said, highlighting the agency’s many resources available to help employers and job seekers.

TWC Commissioner Representing Employers Aaron Demerson added, “Texas continues to be the top destination to do business, and the record-setting job growth we’ve seen month after month shows employers are committed to growing their footprint.”

The numbers show signs of improvement and the reality of the economic impact of the state being shut down for about one year.

Texas’ unemployment rate reached a record high 12.9% in April 2020, less than one month after Abbott shut down the state and declared a state of emergency because of the coronavirus. The unemployment dropped to 10.2% in June 2020, 9.3% in July 2020 and hovered between 6.9% in August 2020 and 5.9% in August 2021.

Texas led the nation in oil-and-gas bankruptcies by June 2020, after oil-and-gas activity “suffered a bloodbath of sorts in April as the state began to register the full effects of the Covid-19 lockdowns, with upstream jobs tumbling to the largest monthly decline on record,” Natural Gas Intelligence reported.

The Dallas Fed doubled its estimates for jobs losses in December 2019 through October 2020 because of volatile oil prices resulting from a Russia-Saudi Arabia oil war. It expected about 8,100 job losses in Texas’ oil-and-gas sector, the largest oil producer in the nation.

Those losses quickly turned into more than 1 million after Abbott placed restrictions on businesses to slow the spread of the coronavirus, and oil prices continued to hit rock bottom.

After Abbott shut down the state in mid-March 2020, wells were closed, rigs stopped operating and tens of thousands of workers were immediately laid off. Texas' oil output fell in March 2020 by an estimated 235,000 barrels a day, the largest monthly decline ever recorded, according to the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers.

By late April 2020, U.S. oil prices crashed to a record low with U.S. futures falling below $0 a barrel. The oil futures of West Texas Intermediate, the American benchmark of crude oil, plummeted to their lowest prices on record, and the largest single day drop of more than 90%.

After the state reopened, Texas oil-and-gas upstream jobs slowly began to see gains, and oil-and-gas jobs continue to lead the state’s job growth.

Since the low employment point in September 2020, growth months in oil-and-gas jobs outnumbered decline months 11 to 2.

By October 2021, there were 183,400 upstream jobs, up by 22,800, or 14.2%, from the same time-period last year. An additional 21,900 jobs were added in the services sector, and 900 jobs in oil and natural gas extraction.

"Continued oil and natural gas upstream job growth is good news beyond the oil patch,” said Todd Staples, president of the Texas Oil & Gas Association. “Every direct oil and natural gas job in Texas generates an additional three jobs elsewhere in the state's economy. Oil and natural gas are not only essential for our everyday lives, but they anchor our economy and cement our energy security."

Still, many businesses did not recover from the restrictions.

In fact, “more Texas corporations filed for bankruptcy during the first half of 2020 than in any six-month period in the state’s history,” the Houston Chronicle reported in July, with Houston, the state’s largest city, hit the hardest.

In the Houston-area, bankruptcy courts received 144 Chapter 7 or Chapter 11 business bankruptcy filings this year, a 67% increase from last year.

Last year, one month after the state was shut down, Houston-area bankruptcy courts recorded 100 bankruptcy filings as of April 3, an 82% increase from the previous year over the same time period.

Meanwhile, lawsuits continue to make their way through the courts over the governor’s lockdown policies, filed by small business and bar owners who argue that labeling them “nonessential” was discriminatory, arbitrary and violated the state constitution. Many were put out of business while big box stores remained open.