Black Workers Face Steeper Climb From Worst of Pandemic

That’s the unemployment rate for Black workers in June, nearly twice the rate for White people, as their recovery from the worst of the pandemic lags behind other groups.

The share of Black people in the labor force (those with jobs or looking for one) increased in June to its highest level since the start of the pandemic, as did Black employment, according to federal government data released Friday. Yet despite a record number of job openings, more Black people looked for jobs than found one, pushing the Black unemployment rate up from a pandemic-era low of 9.1% in May.

That followed the pattern of the overall unemployment rate, which slightly increased to 5.9% last month, from 5.8% in May. But Black workers have faced a tougher recovery from the pandemic, with substantially higher rates of unemployment and less improvement from the worst conditions compared to other groups. While White, Hispanic and Asian unemployment rates have recovered at similar rates—falling about 60% from the pandemic high for each group—the Black unemployment rate has dropped just 44.9% in the same time.

That’s likely due to a confluence of factors, said Valerie Wilson, director of think tank Economic Policy Institute’s Program on Race, Ethnicity, and the Economy. Black workers are more likely to have jobs in the industries hardest hit by the pandemic, such as government, education, health services, and leisure and hospitality. And as more people search for jobs in those industries, stiffer competition creates more opportunities for discrimination, she said.

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