Black Unemployment Matters Just as Much as White Unemployment

In April 2020, after the labor market took its largest one-month hit in modern history, Black men and women suffered job losses proportionate to those of white women. Still, their losses were far less severe than those of Hispanic men and women. Black workers already had higher unemployment rates, as has always been the case, but their unemployment rates did not skyrocket as much as other groups. In fact, while the Black unemployment rate normally hovers around twice the rate for white people, the racial disparities in the unemployment rate fell during the height of the coronavirus crisis.

Black job losses were not as extreme as might have been expected because Black workers were overrepresented in the sectors deemed essential. Yet, since April 2020, the ratio of Black to white unemployment has been on a path to return to its typical level — with Black workers experiencing twice the level of unemployment as their white neighbors.

There are good reasons for both central bankers at the Federal Reserve and policymakers in Congress to not complacently slip back into tolerating these disparities as an acceptable facet of economic normalcy.

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