Story at a glance
- The difference in unemployment rates between Black and white Americans has widened since the onset of the pandemic.
- Data implies that Black workers are regaining employment at a slower rate than their white counterparts.
On Thursday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its monthly unemployment report.
While the economy triumphed over pessimistic expectations by adding 4.8 million jobs in June despite a tumultuous pandemic causing mass unemployment, a more disturbing trend has emerged from the data.
Overall, jobless rates fell across all demographics, but the level of decline widened between Black and white Americans. Reuters reports that this discrepancy is the largest it has been in five years, with the white unemployment rate moving to 10.1 percent from 12.4 percent, and the Black unemployment rate shifting to 15.4 percent from 16.8 percent.
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That comes out to a 2.3 percentage point difference for white Americans, versus a slimmer 1.4 difference for Black Americans, creating a 5.3 percentage point gap.
In other words, white Americans appear to be finding jobs at a quicker rate than their Black counterparts.
This analysis follows nationwide Black Lives Matter protests that ensued following the deaths of multiple Black Americans at the hands of police.
At the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S., the previously strong economy fell sharply as businesses were forced to shutter their doors as state governments imposed stay-at-home mandates to help curb the spread of the virus.
Businesses like restaurants and retail stores were hit especially hard, forcing them to adapt to delivery-based business models rather than relying on walk-in customers. Other industries also felt pressure of having employees being forced to work remotely.
Reuters notes that per recent jobless data, job losses during the coronavirus-induced recession fell particularly hard on women and workers of color.
Just as the coronavirus pandemic broke the record-long economic expansion enjoyed by the U.S., the recession also undid decades of positive economic gains for Black Americans. Reuters states that in August 2019, the unemployment rate for Black workers fell to a record low of 5.4 percent, and the unemployment gap between Black and white workers was a slim 2 percentage points, the smallest observed since the U.S Department of Labor began reporting the race of American workers in 1972.
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