Black unemployment spikes, and women bear the brunt


By TheGrio

Black unemployment rates experienced a spike between April and May, notably impacting Black women in the public sector.

The Bureau of Labor and Statistics notes that Black people’s unemployment rose from 4.7 percent to 5.6 percent between April and May. According to NBC News, the gap between Black and white workers shrank in February as Black rates fell to their lowest in over a year.

Even though the rate of job losses among the Black workforce increased overall, the unemployment rate for Black women rose from 4.4 percent in April to 5.3 percent in May.

Nick Bunker, Indeed Hiring Lab’s director of economic research, said the increase in the unemployment rate is the most alarming finding in the Labor and Statistics report.

“Almost half of the increase in the number of unemployed workers was due to a spike in Black unemployment,” Bunker said, NBC reported. “This might be statistical noise, or it could be a sign of Black workers’ disproportionately bearing the brunt of a rise in joblessness.”

Michelle Holder, an associate professor of economics at City University of New York, noted that Black employees make up around 13 percent of the labor force, so the rates among Black women in May dramatically raised the unemployment numbers.

The unemployment rate for Black men climbed from 4.5 percent to 5.6 percent, according to the data.

Holder noted that while Black women are overrepresented in the public sector and work in retail, leisure and hospitality, more Black men work in transportation or warehousing.

Valerie Wilson, director of the Economic Policy Institute’s Program on Race, Ethnicity and the Economy, noted that the loss of income caused by unemployment can affect any household, but can exacerbate financial difficulties for Black families, who are less likely to have savings or multiple earners of income.

Despite the current rise, experts noted that the overall Black unemployment rate had decreased from 2020, when it peaked at the historically high level of 16.8 percent.

Holder added that last month’s Black unemployment rate of 4.7 percent was the lowest in more than 50 years. Black men were primarily the reason, particularly those employed in the transportation and warehouse industries, which have created a million new jobs in the last three years.

“And that,” she said, “has really benefited Black men more so than Black women.”