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(Karen Brooks Harper/Austonia)

Software engineer and Austin resident Steve Donie was laid off from his midsized startup in April, one of 123,900 people in the area who lost his job that month.


Two months later, he's still unemployed and still collecting benefits, searching for a job that remotely matches his 25 years of experience—at something close to his previous salary.

New unemployment claims in Travis County were down nearly 75%—to 3,041—in the first week of June compared to late March, after the coronavirus pandemic shut down businesses and caused some 14,585 people to file for unemployment in a single week.

The trend tracks with national claims, which are down by nearly 70% in new applications for unemployment benefits. The week that Donie was laid off, he and about 10,480 other people filed for unemployment.

Those numbers mean that job losses for the Austin area have slowed, but what they don't reflect is the number of people still looking for work.

"I've never been unemployed for this long," Donie, 53, said.

National numbers show an increase in jobs in May, a trend that is likely to be mirrored in Texas, one of the first states to reopen that month—and among the most aggressive to do so.

The May unemployment rates for Texas will be released Friday.

Those who work with job seekers and, mostly these days, the suddenly unemployed, say they have seen a dip in the number of people asking them for help to find work.

"We went into overdrive in answering calls pretty much around the clock when COVID hit back in March, and we were seeing between 2,000 and 2,500 calls a day at the height of the layoffs," said Tamara Atkinson, CEO of Workforce Solutions Capital Area, which provides job training and other services to local residents.

Now, she said, it's 500 to 600 a day. Before the coronavirus lead to the lockdown in mid-March, Atkinson said, the agency was averaging 150 calls per week. That was when 59 straight months of job growth had unemployment rates in Austin hovering mostly under 3%.

In April, Austin's jobless rate shot up to over 12%—tracking with state trends.

Employees at Fertile Ground are back to work. (Fertile Ground)

Employees at Fertile Ground are back to work.

Those numbers will include the employees at Fertile Ground, a local landscape company co-owned by Donie's wife, Julie Donie, who had to lay off all but one worker (including herself) in March but rehired nearly all of them in May.

Only their maintenance and gardening services were considered essential. One full-timer was allowed to plant some vegetable gardens while they waited for permission to reopen. It was impossible to find personal protective gear for her employees at the time, she said.

"Then when construction work became essential, and all our competitors were still working," she said, "our clients were like, 'Hey, when are you coming back?'"

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The long-awaited day is here; Austin FC takes the field with LAFC. (Austonia)

It's matchday! Austin FC—Austin's first major league sport team—kicks off its debut season in Los Angeles today after years in the making. We know how much this means to our beloved city and are taking you along with us as we journey to LA!

Austin FC writer Claire Partain and I are excited to bring you game-day coverage straight from the City of Angels. Check back here for updates, and visit our socials: @austonianews for the latest.

5 p.m: Kickoff!

It's finally here! Claire will be updating Austonia's Twitter account live. And we'll post her game recap after the game. Best of luck Verdes!

4:40 p.m: Excitement radiates back home

Watch parties are in plenty supply back home. Austonia's Laura Figi visited Circle Brewing Co. and found a crowd of excited supporters.

4:20 p.m: Austin FC supporters are in the stadium

Although the Banc of California Stadium is hosting the match at limited capacity, we see some green in the stands ahead of kickoff. Just moments away from the Austin FC's debut!

~3:20 p.m: Austin FC's team bus enters the stadium grounds

With a warm welcome from Los Verdes, Austin FC players were welcomed into the Banc of California Stadium.

~1 p.m: Los Verdes in LA

(Rigo Rodriguez/Los Verdes)

Austin FC supporters are making their presence known in LA, including the Los Verdes group.

Los Verdes members started having match-day fun around the area this morning with brunch. We'll be joining them about an hour before the game outside the stadium to share some of their excitement. We'll post immediately to Austonia's Instagram.

11:45 a.m: We landed!

View from hotel room where we're staying; the stadium digital sign can be seen in the right corner. (Sonia Garcia/Austonia)

Switching over to pacific time, we're here and it's almost like no time went by. It's 9:45 a.m. here.

We've been in contact with Los Verdes, an Austin FC supporter group, who is also here in LA counting down to kickoff.

8:20 a.m: LA bound

Like many of you, we've been looking forward to this moment for, let's just say, a very long time. Today, we woke up bright and early, headed to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and hopped on a flight to LA.

A gloomy day in Austin with a very quiet airport, we're headed to sunny skies in California.

As we wait for the game to start at 4:30 p.m., check out Claire's preview of the game with a predicted lineup and timeline of the long journey to get here.


Ingredients:

  • 750 ml Tito's Handmade Vodka
  • 16 oz strawberries

Directions: Drop sliced strawberries into glass container filled with Tito's Handmade Vodka. Let sit in the refrigerator for 5-7 days. Once desired flavor is reached remove fruit. Enjoy!

Years before the city of Austin went Verde, thousands of the city's soccer fans formed a supporters' group—MLS in Austin—for a team that didn't even exist yet.

Now, as the team's catchphrase suggests, those same fans are #LISTOS as they prepare to see their team on national television at Austin FC's debut on Saturday.

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