Black workforce, unemployment

Don’t Call It A Comeback: Black Unemployment Hits An All-Time Low Despite Uptick Early This Year

The unemployment rate for Black workers is slowly increasing in a post-pandemic world.

The cut-and-dry truth is that unemployment rates for Blacks in the United States rose for the second month in a row. In an interview, Kate Bahn from the Urban Institute told NPR that the current unemployment rate for Blacks is 6%.

Blacks did not bounce back from the pandemic as successfully as other groups. Bahn said the pandemic hit Black workers the hardest. “In the pandemic, Black workers were hit much worse. They had much worse unemployment outcomes,” NPR reported.

Blacks have always faced systemic barriers in the workforce. BLACK ENTERPRISE reported that for every dollar a white man makes, Black men earn 77 cents, and their Black female counterparts earn 68 cents. Bahn noted change must happen at the institutional level for Black workers to be on an even playing field with white workers. Bahn told NPR, “But we also need institutional change to ensure that workers who have been historically excluded, like Black workers, can share in the gains of the economy.” “What we really need is policy change to ensure that Black workers are on the same footing as white workers,” Bahn added.

There is hope. The Black employment rate is closer than ever to that of whites. Bahn told NPR there is only a half percentage point difference between Black and white employment rates. Blacks are also showing up in the labor force. According to Bahn, “labor force participation for Black workers is higher than that of white workers,” according to NPR.

Bahn said the solution combines market forces or positive employment outcomes and institutional changes that might improve statistics for Black workers. “We have those market forces right now, but we don’t have those institutional changes yet.”

Bahn also noted a two-month increase in unemployment for Blacks is not strong enough to label it a trend.