The more things change, the more they stay the same. A year after the country’s recession due to the COVID-19 pandemic slowed down, America’s economic recovery continues to be unequal in regard to race and ethnicity.
Among the millions of unemployed Americans who applied for jobs last month, workers of color were the only racial or ethnic group whose unemployment rate increased overall. A news report by NBC stated that about 9 percent of Black men and 8 percent of Black women were unemployed in August—which was an increase from the previous month for both demographics.
Throughout history, Black people have received the short end of the stick. Since the government has been tracking data by race, Black unemployment nearly doubled the rate of our mayonnaise-colored counterparts.
In the workforce, Black people are more likely to lose their jobs first, regardless of work experience and skill level. Even when the economy is in great standing, the employment rates of people of color are still below the national average, which adds to the evidence of racial bias.
Per NBC News, some notable economists spoke on the role race plays on unemployment:
“It typically has held up in that way, regardless of whether the economy is in an upturn or downtown,” stated William Darity, an economist at Duke University. “As a consequence, there really has never been an improvement in the Black unemployment rate that has brought it into parity with the white unemployment rate. That holds regardless of educational attainment.”
“Discrimination is happening on multiple fronts,” said Kate Bahn, chief economist at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, a nonprofit research group. “It’s happening on the downturn if you get laid off and then also, the degree to which hiring picks back up, there could also be discrimination in hiring. So that would also disproportionately harm Black workers.”
“They’re both facing worse opportunities because of structural racism, as well as the unique factors related to the pandemic that disproportionately put them in positions of risk in response to the public health crisis and the economy,” Bahn said.
In August, more Black people participated in the national search for work than in previous months. This is confusing because the employment rate doesn’t reflect this… racism, maybe?