Covid-19 Pandemic Hit African American Jobs And Income Hardest

Written by Ann Brown
The covid-19 pandemic hit African-American jobs and income the hardest. Recovery in the Black community will likely take the longest. A person wearing protective masks due to coronavirus concerns walks in Philadelphia, April 2, 2020. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

The covid-19 pandemic has been a hard hit for Black America, all the way around. Black Americans were infected and died from the disease at higher rates than whites and a new study shows that income and jobs of Black people were the most affected by the crisis as well.

The latest Financial Times-Peterson survey underscores the disparities. Nearly a quarter of likely Black voters in the U.S. reported being dismissed or furloughed from their jobs since the lockdowns began, compared to just 19 percent of white respondents, according to the study.

The survey showed that 74 percent of Black voters reported a financial hardship compared to 58 percent of white voters. The Financial Times and the Peter G. Peterson Foundation have conducted a monthly poll since the beginning of the pandemic. The latest one was conducted between May 20 and May 26. More than 100,000 people in the U.S. have died from covid-19. 

The poll also shows that Black Americans are more likely to more pessimistic about the public health crisis and the potential for economic recovery than white people.

Black respondents see things getting worse — not better. Forty-three percent of Black voters said the coronavirus outbreak would get worse in their community in the next month, compared to 32 percent of white voters, The Financial Times reported. 

African Americans also want the country to reopen slower — 48 percent of Black likely voters polled said restrictions and social distancing should be lifted within three months, compared to 64 percent of white voters. 

Most Black households said a second stimulus check was much-needed. In fact, 98 percent of Black voters said an additional “economic impact payment” was important to them and their families, compared to 72 percent of white voters. For almost two-thirds of Black voters, the federal money would be used for basic living expenses such as food, mortgage or rent. 

The Economic Policy Institute recently released a report on the disparities the covid-19 pandemic has helped to highlight. 

The report categorized workers in the covid-19 economy in three groups:

  • Those who have lost their jobs and face economic insecurity due to the pandemic.
  • Those classified as essential workers who face health insecurity as a result.
  • Those who are able to continue working from the safety of their homes.

“Unfortunately, Black workers are less likely to be found in the last group,” the study said. “They have suffered record numbers of job losses over the last two months (March 2020–May 2020), along with the ensuing related economic devastation.”

Black workers are also disproportionately found among the essential workers in the economy today, putting their health at risk by continuing to go to their workplaces.

Black and Latino workers have the lowest working-from-home rates and are more likely to work in industries considered essential, said Ellora Derenoncourt, an economist who is about to join the University of California, Berkeley, in a Wall Street Journal interview.

“Inequality is a comorbidity in the covid-19 pandemic,” Derenoncourt said.

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As the labor market deteriorated, so did the incomes of Black workers. Black unemployment is higher even during good economic times, so during the pandemic, the unemployment rate in Black households has been devastating, the EPI report found. 

The latest data shows the Black unemployment rate is 16.7 percent, compared with a white unemployment rate of 14.2 percent, according to the EPI report. While white women may have experienced the largest increase in unemployment, Black women now have the highest unemployment rate of everyone. 

Overall, employment losses were striking across racial lines between February and April. “Black workers saw slightly greater losses in employment than white workers (10.6 vs. 9.5 percentage-point losses). This translates into an employment loss of 17.8 percent among Black workers and 15.5 percent among white workers,” the EPI study stated.

What this means is that between February and April, more than one in six Black workers lost their jobs, and as of April, less than half of the adult Black population was employed.