Unemployment Rate for Black People Goes Up as Rates for All Other Groups Decline

As COVID-19 restrictions begin to ease and the economy rumbles back to life, the labor market remains highly uneven with Black men and women still facing unemployment rates that are significantly higher than those for all other groups.

In an article for Bloomberg, Catarina Saraiva reported that “the Black unemployment rate climbed in February even as most other Americans saw a decline in joblessness.”

According to new data from the U.S. Labor Department, the unemployment rate for Black men and women in America rose to 9.9% in February, marking the highest level of unemployment among all races tracked by the government agency. In contrast, the overall U.S. jobless rate dropped to 6.2% while unemployment levels for white, Hispanic and Asian American workers all saw significant declines. (Notably, unemployment for Asian American unemployment fell to 5.1% while the jobless rates for Hispanics dropped slightly to 8.5%.)

As we’ve reported previously, job losses due to COVID-19 have disproportionately impacted minorities, and that is something policymakers intend to continue watching closely as the economy recovers, Saraiva said.  

Speaking cautiously about what full economic recovery might look like, Jerome H. Powell, the chair of the Federal Reserve, said “4% would be a nice unemployment rate to get to, but it will take more than that to get to maximum employment.” 

Jeanna Smialek of The New York Times said Mr. Powell’s entire message concerning the newly recent job market data “centered on how cautious the central bank plans to be in dialing back economic policies.” 

In other words, even with measures in place to aid in economic recovery, experts believe it will take a significant length of time for the job market to fully bounce back to where it was pre-pandemic — a fact Powell stated will likely hold true for Black people as well as for people of other races. 


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