Area employers are still hiring for some positions amid the ongoing public health crisis. Despite many business temporarily closing their doors during the current epidemic, officials with Workforce Solutions Texoma said jobs are still available.


“We have 800 job openings in our system right now in Texoma,” WST Executive Director Janie Bates said Tuesday. “They are all over the place — they are from retail, like grocery stores and essential types of businesses, to manufacturing and drivers and delivery services. It is a wide variety.”


This comes as more than 6.6 million American workers filed for unemployment benefits last week through the ongoing public health crisis. This was nearly double the 3.3 million who filed the week prior.


“Nearly every grocery store in town is hiring. Some of our manufacturers are hiring … there are some individual companies that are looking for drivers,” Bates said.


Bates said her office has seen increased traffic over the past few weeks as unemployment has increased. While her admin office doesn’t handle unemployment benefits, Bates said that it is a common reason people are calling.


“Over the past two weeks we’ve gone from 1,500 calls in a week to 4,000 calls in a week,” Bates said.


The state system has been overwhelmed by the high demand. Up until this point, the state had enjoyed near-record-low unemployment, with rates remaining less than 4 percent for the past several years.


With that in mind, Bates said the system likely wasn’t prepared for a sudden demand. To assist, the state system is hiring additional workers and opening on Saturdays to process claims.


“People are desperate for some information,” Bates said. “Some people say they have called 30 or 40 times, trying to get through but they can’t get through because the lines are overwhelmed. People are overwhelmed.”


“The best thing you can tell people is to be patient,” Bates continued. “We know it is crazy. The state knows it is crazy, but when you are at 3 percent (local) unemployment, you aren’t geared up for something like this.”


Despite not handling unemployment, Bates said people have been using phone systems and internet access at the local offices to file for unemployment. However, there is a limited capacity due to ongoing social distancing and limits on gatherings.


“By 11 o’clock Monday, Bonham and Gainesville were already booked solid for the week and Denison had, I think, 14 slots open by 11 o’clock,” she said.


Meanwhile, Sherman Economic Development Corp. President Kent Sharp said Many of Sherman’s industries remain in operation. The real question they worry about is a stay-at-home and how it will affect business.


“They just seem to be worried about shelter in place and if they will be an essential business,” Sharp said. “They said critical manufacturing (is allowed), but what is critical manufacturing?”


Michael Hutchins is the local government reporter for the Herald Democrat. He can be reached at mhutchins@heralddemocrat.com.


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