Before the pandemic hit, the Black unemployment rate was 6%, double the rate as White Americans. At the height of the pandemic, the Black unemployment rate hit 16.7%.
The U.S. unemployment rate has steadily declined over the last year as vaccines were released and Americans began returning to offices. However, Black Americans were laid off more and hired less through the entire pandemic. Today, the gap between Black and White workers remains as large as ever.
In December’s job report, the Black unemployment rate increased from 6.5% to 7.1% compared to November, making it the only racial group that saw an increase in unemployment. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh acknowledged the issue and said the administration was working to address it.
“In the Department of Labor, we are focused on building an inclusive recovery that lifts up all workers and communities, and that means identifying and addressing persistent inequities as reflected in an increase in Black unemployment in December,” Walsh said in a statement. “We are investing in equity and diversity in job training programs and career services, strengthening health and safety, wage and anti-discrimination protections for the most vulnerable workers, and making sure the President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law creates good jobs for every community. We are devoted to empowering all workers morning, noon, and night.”
Making things worse, Walsh acknowledged that not only Black Americans are more likely to be unemployed, but those that do find jobs often get paid less. Last week, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen acknowledged, “Our economy has never worked fairly for Black Americans.”
Lorena Roque, a senior policy analyst at American Progress, told Yahoo the Biden administration may have underestimated the issue and added it will take a combination of factors to fix it.
When taking a deeper look at Black unemployment, the numbers show Black women are the ones being affected. According to the Brookings Institute, the December jobs report shows an increase in the unemployment rate for Black women, while the rate for Black men improved slightly.
The labor force participation rate for Black women has increased slightly as schools reopened and government relief programs ran out. However, Black women are still finding trouble getting jobs.
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