Employment Rose By 2.5M In May, Biggest Jobs Increase Ever, But Black Unemployment Continues To Rise

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Written by Dana Sanchez
Black unemployment
Overall employment rose by 2.5 million in May — the biggest jobs increase ever. But Black unemployment continues to rise. People wait in line for help with unemployment benefits at the One-Stop Career Center, March 17, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Despite 2.5 million U.S. job gains overall in May, Black unemployment rose to its highest level in more than 10 years while the white jobless rate fell for the month, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Almost half of the job gains were in leisure and hospitality — people classified as temporarily laid off due to the coronavirus-related economic shutdowns.

Economists surveyed by Dow Jones had been expecting the unemployment rate to rise from 14.7 percent in April to 19.5 percent in May as the coronavirus dealt a devastating blow to people’s livelihoods, CNBC reported.

Instead, the May jobless rate declined to 13.3 percent overall, with Black unemployment rising to 16.8 percent and white unemployment sinking to 12.4 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Reopening the economy during the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in the biggest one-month job gains in U.S. history since at least 1939. The only other time more than 1 million jobs were added was in September 1983 (1.1 million).

Coronavirus cases continued to spread in parts of the south and western U.S. in the past week. Inland states including Arkansas, Texas and Arizona saw spikes. “We continue to trend upward in the number of cases,” said Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

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The U.S. is close to hitting the 2-million mark for covid-19 cases (1,949,626) with 111,251 reported deaths — by far the most reported of any country in the world.

President Donald Trump was elated with the jobs numbers, tweeting that they are “stunning,” “stupendous” and “joyous.” Racial and economic inequality in the U.S. has come under the spotlight since George Floyd’s murder on Memorial Day at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis. Protests continue around the U.S.

The unemployment-rate gap between Black and white Americans has been narrowing since 2011, Bloomberg reported. But even at its lowest point in August 2019, Black unemployment was 2 percent higher than white unemployment, which was at 3.4 percent.