The U.S. economy added an impressive 916,000 jobs in March yet Black unemployment remains high at 9.6 percent, according to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics figures.
This was a slight drop from the 9.9 percent unemployment rate of February 2021. At the beginning of 2021, Black unemployment was lower, at 9.2 percent. And in March 2020, at the beginning of the pandemic, it was 6.8 percent.
White workers, by comparison, saw the unemployment rate fall to 5.6 percent in February 2021.
Though the rest of the country is seeing the job rate slowly return to normal, Black people aren’t enjoying the good news.
Black women, in particular, are being left behind. Employment for Black women is 9.7 percent lower than it was in February 2020, CNBC reported. Compare this to employment for white men, white women, and Black men, which stands at 5 percent, 5.4 percent, and 5.9 percent, respectively.
Aaron Sojourner, a former White House Council of Economic Advisers and senior economist under President Barack Obama, tweeted, “Unemployment rate are mostly coming down but still high for all groups, especially Black Americans.”
Black workers were hardest hit with job losses during the pandemic and they are seeing a slower recovery. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell blamed it on a lackadaisical labor market.
“It’s slack in the labor market,” Powell said when asked about high rates of Black unemployment during a March 17 press conference. “It’s sad to see, because those disparities had really come down to record lows,” before the pandemic.
But the continuing high Black unemployment rate has also hit educated Black workers, pointing to systemic discrimination as more likely a reason, according to some economists. Black workers with more education are finding it harder to get a job than their white peers.
In March, the unemployment rate for Black workers with a bachelor’s degree or higher was 4.7 prcent, compared to 3.6 percent for whites, , Bloomberg reported.
“If even the best-educated Black person doesn’t do as well in the economy, then that must be discrimination,” said William Spriggs, chief economist at the AFL-CIO, (American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations).
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The 916,000 jobs gained in March were in construction, which added 110,000 jobs, and leisure and hospitality, which had an increase of 280,000 new jobs. This is good news for the U.S. economy as a whole.
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