The Texas Workforce Commission released June employment figures that showed Texas employers added nearly 56,000 jobs in June, while the unemployment rate dropped to 6.5 percent.

“The Texas economy is booming,” Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement. “Businesses are investing in the Lone Star State at a record pace because we’ve built a framework that allows free enterprise to flourish and hardworking Texans to prosper.”

TWC’s latest statistics show that the leisure and hospitality industry led all others in job growth, adding more than 19,000 jobs. Education and health services employment ranked second, adding 9,500 jobs in June. 

Texas Democrats still holed up in D.C.

More than 50 Texas Democratic legislators remain holed up in a Washington, D.C. hotel, blocking an effort by Republicans to pass more restrictive voting laws during the present special session since state law requires at least 100 reps to have a quorum.

The legislators have been meeting with national Democratic leaders, such as Vice President Kamala Harris, but also dealing with an outbreak of COVID-19 among its members, according to KUT. At least a half dozen legislators, who say they were already vaccinated, have tested positive for the virus while in the nation’s capital.

The legislators are pushing for federal voting legislation, called the For the People Act, which has already passed the U.S. House but remains bottled up in the Senate. Without changes to the Senate filibuster rule, passage seems unlikely. The special session in Austin ends Aug. 7, but Abbott has vowed to call another one if the Democrats remain absent, effectively stopping any legislation from passing. 

PUC, ERCOT update consumers on grid reliability

In a joint press conference last Thursday, the chairman of the Public Utility Commission and the interim CEO of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas outlined steps their organizations are taking to improve electric grid reliability during the dog days of summer.

The PUC oversees ERCOT, which is responsible for maintaining the electric grid. ERCOT has drawn heat after the widespread blackouts during the February winter storm, and subsequently pleading for less energy consumption during an early summer heat wave.

“We expect there is sufficient generation to meet summer 2021 electric demand; however, there may be times when we will call on customers to conserve just as other grid operators across the country and around the world do. It’s just another tool in the toolbox,” Brad Jones, ERCOT interim CEO, said. “In response to a conservation notice, Texans may need to take some simple steps for a limited duration – such as doing laundry in the morning or running the pool pump at night instead of the afternoon – to ensure grid reliability.”

Abbott recently issued executive orders directing the PUC and ERCOT to improve grid reliability. Critics say the measures passed in the last regular session to address the issue fall short of what is needed to ensure another grid failure doesn’t occur.

As cases rise, new pop-up vaccine sites announced

COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are on the rise again in Texas, largely spurred by the highly contagious delta variant. The Texas Department of State Health Services is again hitting the road to encourage folks to get vaccinated.

Rates of those who are fully inoculated continue to lag, particularly in younger populations. DSHS will hold 18 pop-up events at Walmart locations across the state to talk with parents and families about the importance of vaccination for younger Texans as they prepare for next school year and as the Delta variant spreads more widely in Texas.

The DSHS pop-ups last four hours each day and will travel around the state through the first week of August. The events feature a 16-foot video wall, a “Take the Shot” basketball game, and free frozen treats.

COVID-19 cases the past week in Texas continue to rise sharply, up 60 percent from the previous week, when cases nearly doubled. A total of 36,451 cases were reported by the Coronavirus Resource Center at Johns Hopkins University along with 190 deaths, flat compared to the previous week. However, hospitalizations continue to spike, with DSHS reporting 4,137 lab-confirmed COVID-19 patients in Texas, up more than 30 percent from the previous week. 

The number of Texans fully vaccinated rose slightly to 12.51 million, about 43 percent of the state’s population. As the delta variant spreads, the state’s positivity rate has exceeded 10 percent for the first time since February.

Gary Borders is a veteran award-winning Texas journalist. He published a number of community newspapers in Texas during a 30-year span. Email: gborders@texaspress.com.

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