DFW Airport Staves Off Worst of COVID, Unemployment Ticks Up

Eric Griffin, Managing Director, Research & Innovation

Both Texas and the Dallas Region recently received unwelcome news from the Bureau of Labor Statistics; despite the continuing decline in the U.S. jobless rate to 7.9% in September, the state unemployment rate (UR) increased by 1.5 percentage points to 8.3%, and the regional UR increased by 1.2 percentage points to 7.5%. This is the first month the Dallas Region UR has increased since the beginning of the second quarter of 2020 when it reached 12.8%. Nonetheless, this upward turn is a foreboding signal that large swaths of the workforce cannot find work.

View the full report: Economy in Brief: Indicators for the Dallas Region

Even seemingly good economic news needs to be unpacked. Much attention has been devoted to the enormous jump in annualized gross domestic product (GDP) in the third quarter; at 38.0%, this marked the single biggest increase ever over a preceding quarter. Economists have pointed out rightly that although a $1.64 trillion increase presents a good trajectory for economic recovery, it cannot be viewed in isolation. Second quarter GDP decreased 32.8% over the prior quarter, losing a staggering $2.04 trillion. Despite the third quarter’s record increase, its performance did not bring the economy back to the pre-pandemic baseline.

GDP figures for metro areas lag by nearly two years, meaning the true impact of COVID-19 on the Dallas Region economy will be under debate for some time. However, DFW International Airport is a key bulwark for the region due to the amount of trade, travel, commerce, construction, and employment that it generates or facilitates. Leadership at this crown jewel of the regional transit and transportation network have taken swift actions to minimize the impact that has decimated the travel and leisure industries around the world.

DFW Airport implemented public health and safety measures to combat actual and perceived travel hazards, working in close partnership with DFW-based American Airlines. The communications staff provided critical real-time public information regarding what travelers could expect to experience. And unions and management have struggled together through an industry crisis of unprecedented length and severity, a relationship that will be important after the economy exits from pandemic conditions.

All of these well-planned actions helped to briefly make DFW Airport the busiest in the world. DFW occupies the second spot among the world’s biggest airports in terms of scheduled departures. Similarly, among the largest U.S. airports, DFW is ranked second in terms of smallest decline in year-over-year departures and smallest decline in number of destinations. In fact, 97% of domestic routes have been maintained throughout the pandemic. Taken together with the volume of freight and cargo that passes through DFW, the airport is poised to play a key role in recovery in the Dallas Region.

“Economy in Brief: Indicators for the Dallas Region” is an ongoing series, presented by Bank of America, that offers easily digestible insights into our economic landscape. The data points and analysis tools allow our business community to make informed decisions based on trends. Our reporting also measures the impact of COVID-19 on our economy.