The labor market is recovering from the pandemic with the overall U.S. unemployment rate falling to 3.5% in December. However, it remained stagnant for Black Americans and increased for Black women at 5.7% and 5.5% respectively. Specifically, Black women continue to experience persistent unemployment gaps and reduced economic opportunity. Is this economic recovery revealing the impacts of continuing systemic racism in the labor market?
The Breakdown You Need To Know:
A decline can seem to indicate progress, but for Black people, the percentage was too high to begin with, CultureBanx reported. Black women’s unemployment soared to a high of 14% in June 2020, by August 2022, their unemployment hovered at nearly twice that of white women’s 2.9%, at 5.9%. The overall Black unemployment rate has fallen, but the division in economic recovery is glaring. Vulnerable industries like retail, leisure and entertainment have an overrepresentation of young people, women and minorities who have seen larger declines in unemployment compared to other groups.
Workers across all racial groups have experienced larger declines in their unemployment rate compared with the recovery after the Great Recession in 2008. Minority laborers represent a significantly larger percentage of vulnerable employees, especially in cities like New York, Washington D.C. and Chicago, where there are more than 500,000 vulnerable workers who make up nearly half of that group.
For Black mothers, they tend to shoulder more child-care responsibilities than their white counterparts, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, and are also more likely to be the primary wage earners in their families. The increase in their unemployment numbers can have very dire effects on the entire Black community.
It’s plausible that there are far more Black women who are jobless than the already high unemployment figures would suggest, further contributing to greater poverty, reduced financial stability, and a lack of generational wealth in Black families and communities.
Relatively high under-employment and unemployment over the past decade has meant that many Black households were unable to fully participate in the economic recovery currently taking place. Black women only make 58 cents for every dollar a white man earned in 2021, compared to white women who earn 73 cents, according to the AAUW. This means the economic recovery is actually perpetuating systemic racism at the cost of continuing to widen the racial wealth gap. We will see if this number improves when we get January’s job report next month.
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