Since March 1, more than 5,600 workers have filed unemployment claims across Texoma. Workforce Solutions Texoma released numbers on unemployment claims for its three-county service area this week as the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis continues.


Despite the thousands of claims across North Texas, WST Executive Director Janie Bates said she believes the region has hit its peak for unemployment claims, and some Texoma employers are still looking for qualified workers.


“I think we might have (hit the peak) simply because of the diminished number of phone calls that we are getting,” Bates said, noting her office does not process or handle unemployment applications.


At its peak about three weeks ago, Bates said her office was seeing more than 4,000 calls in a week. However, this number has steadily dropped to about 3,200 and again to about 2,400 per week.


“Usually when we opened at 8 o’clock the calls started and it was non-stop,” Bates said, describing the call volume at its peak. “ We were all taking them. ”


Between Cooke, Grayson and Fannin Counties, 5,620 unemployment claims have been made as of of Monday. Of those claims, 624 have been made in the past week.


Of the 5,620 claims made since March the vast majority, 3,872 have come from Grayson County. Cooke has seen 1,028 claims which Fannin saw only 720.


Bates attributed this to the rural nature of Fannin county and Fannin’s history of low unemployment. Cooke County, my comparison, has been hit by some layoffs in the agriculture, and oil and gas industries.


Statewide, Bates said the Texas Workforce commission has processed nearly 170,000 unemployment claims in recent weeks.


This follows growing pains the organization felt during the initial wave of layoffs and furloughs in March. However, the agency has since taken steps to hire and train more staff to process claims, opened new centers and extended hours for claims.


“Our advice is to just keep trying because eventually you will get through,” Bates said, adding that the TWC is backdating claims to the date of the layoff.


Despite not having direct involvement with the processing, Bates said she has seen a lot of people for varying industries who have been displaced by the current economic uncertainty.


“We’ve seen everything from nail techs, hair salon people, massage therapists to factory people, to delivery people,” she said. It just depends on their particular industry.”


Despite the downturn, Bates said that the region still has jobs available. The number of jobs listed in the region varies greatly but has remained somewhere between 300 and 800 through the past few weeks.


Currently, about 670 jobs remain on the market, however these jobs are across only about 60 employers.


“That’s not that many employers because some employers may have many jobs available,” she said.


Another factor that Bates has noticed is that some of these available jobs appear to be situations where the employer is having to back fill jobs that have been left vacant by employees who are not able to work currently.


Bates said she is unsure of the permanency of these jobs once workers begin to return.


"One of the reasons I think this has grown is because people have had to stop working in order to take care of children or they have someone they have to take care of or there is an issue with them having a low immune system and do not want to get out in this.“


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