So far, we’ve seen a group larger than the entire population of California lose their jobs since March. As the pandemic coverage is swept aside by protests over police brutality and systemic racism, one calculation holds that half of all black adults are now jobless.” A Better Jobs Report Belies America’s Breadlines.
By Eli Rosenberg June 1, 2020, Washington Post
In the Minneapolis area, where protests have turned violent in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd, the median income for black households is less than half of white ones — $38,200 compared to $85,000.
In Washington, D.C., where protesters set fire to American flags and a historic church near the White House, the percentage of out-of-work black residents outpaces white residents at a rate of about 6 to 1.
African American households have struggled more economically than the median household nationwide, even when unemployment was at single-digit historic lows. Now, months into the novel coronavirus pandemic that has rendered 40 million people jobless, African Americans have lost jobs at higher rates in many communities.
A recent Washington Post-Ipsos poll found that blacks reported being furloughed and laid off at higher rates than whites, underlining the disproportionate toll of the pandemic on African American communities. And this is all happening at a time when black Americans are also dying of covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, at much higher rates than whites, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“There’s nothing that says you don’t belong in an economy more than a police officer shooting you dead in the street. It is a symbol of exclusion,” said Andre M. Perry, a fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of “Know Your Price: Valuing Black Lives and Property in America’s Black Cities.” “The underlying attitude that lead a cop to kneel on the neck of a person in custody so cavalierly, is the same attitude that corporate executives have, as reflected in the disparate economic outcomes.”
Black people are more likely to work in industries, like hospitality, dining and leisure, that have been so severely curtailed by the virus. And those who have kept their jobs are more likely to work in hands-on, front-line work that puts them at continual risk of exposure in grocery stores, public transportation, trucking, warehousing and health care.
Hannah Jewell looks back at plague and yellow fever outbreaks in Europe and New Orleans, which revealed stark divides between the rich and poor. (The Washington Post)
Additionally, black workers with résumés equivalent to white workers are paid less, given worse benefits and are more likely to be underemployed compared to white counterparts, Perry noted.
The police killing of an unarmed man like George Floyd was a result of a racist system that cannot be looked at only within the context of policing, he said. “People are focused on policing,” Perry said. “But this is much broader. This is about a fatigue of policy violence in all areas of life.”
Nationwide, blacks have enjoyed a more uneven recovery from the last great economic jolt, the Great Recession, compared to white populations. In terms of household net worth — the median for white households of $171,000 is about 10 times greater than black households’ $17,150 in recent years.
The disparities are clear in the places that erupted in riots over the weekend. In New York, where looters laid waste to one of the world’s most storied commercial districts, only 32 percent of black residents own homes — less than half the percentage for white residents.
In the San Francisco Bay area, where rioters ransacked stores, banks and a car dealership, only 28 percent of black residents have college degrees, compared to 61 percent of their white counterparts.
In Louisville, where police and National Guard forces fatally shot a restaurant owner after protests turned violent, the median household income for black residents is $35,000, compared to $62,000 for whites.
“People of color have less liquidity and less savings,” said Han Lu, a policy analyst at the National Employment Law Project. “This is centuries of structural racism in the economy in education, in housing and other areas that produces a radical racial wealth gap.”
There are already signs of the ways that the coronavirus is adding to that economic burden.
While the April unemployment rate for whites has risen to 14.2 percent, the rate for blacks and Hispanics are 16.7 and 18.9 percent respectively, according to Labor Department statistics released last month.
“Black workers are less able to weather such a storm because they have fewer earners in their families, lower incomes, and lower liquid wealth than white workers,” the Economic Policy Institute wrote in a report Monday. Economists predict that as job losses from the pandemic continue to mount, the eventual recovery will be a steeper road for black Americans.
“The jobs that have been affected the most — like leisure and hospitality — are in industries that have a disproportionate share of blacks,” said William M. Rodgers III, a professor of public policy and chief economist at the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University.
Adding to the economic pain, black Americans are underrepresented among those receiving unemployment insurance, a disparity that some economists have said is due to the difficulty that those who work in more informal or sporadic work capacities face.
Black women faced the largest drop in employment according to one frame economists use to gauge work levels, the employment population ratio, which measures the people who are working out of an entire group. Black women went from 58.4 percent employment in this measurement in February to 47.4 percent in April — a drop of 11 percent, according to the Economic Policy Institute.
“When I saw the numbers I was not surprised to see blacks, particularly black women, bearing a major brunt of this recession,” Rodgers said.
Rodgers is currently part of a commission that is advising New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) on how to reopen the state. He warned of another cascade of layoffs that could disproportionately affect minority workers as state budgets are winnowed down from the crisis.
“There is going to be a second hit economically if the federal government doesn’t help states,” he said. “The public sector is where many women and minorities got a toe hold in the middle class.”
The commission’s work was first focused on restoring consumer confidence — no small feat in the middle of an economic drag that won’t fully abate until there is a vaccine or treatment, experts agree.
William J. Collins is an economic historian at Vanderbilt University who has examined the effects of the 1960s riots on the labor market. He said that riots were rightfully understood in the context of financial issues, but that they didn’t always correspond perfectly to local conditions like unemployment and other economic strife.
“In the ’60s, it didn’t seem to play out that way — they weren’t in places where income was lowest and unemployment was highest,” he said.
But he said riots were a palpable expression of discontent and resentment.
“One is just an ongoing level of discontent with the amount of inequality that we’ve seen over the last several decades,” Collins said. “My sense is that the larger the crowd, the higher the level the discontent, the more young people there are with a sense that there’s not much to lose — the opportunity costs of engaging in violence or vandalism seems lower.”
This is how economic pain is distributed in America
Job losses due to the coronavirus shutdown have fallen unequally on Americans according to age, gender, educational attainment and race
By Tracy Jan May 9, 2020, Washington Post
As the unemployment rate soared in April to its highest levels since the Great Depression, with 14.7 percent of workers without jobs, the coronavirus shutdown fell unequally on Americans according to age, gender, educational attainment as well as race.
Women became unemployed at higher rates than men. Hispanics and blacks were hit harder than whites and Asians. Those without high school diplomas fared the worst. As did teenagers, of whom nearly a third are now out of work.
The numbers, released Friday by the Labor Department, are the first to capture an entire month of stalled business activity, offering the clearest illustration to date of how economic pain is distributed among Americans.
And yet, while the numbers demonstrate a “collective crisis,” they still “don’t fully capture employment despair,” said Darrick Hamilton, an economist and executive director for the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University.
“The race-related differences have not completely come to light given the abruptness and manner in which this employment crisis emerged,” Hamilton said.
Hispanics posted the highest unemployment rate, 18.9 percent, in April, compared with 16.7 percent for blacks, 14.5 percent for Asians and 14.2 percent for whites — record highs for all groups except for blacks
In February, before the shutdown, 4.4 percent of Hispanics, 5.8 percent of blacks, 2.5 percent of Asians and 3.1 percent of whites were unemployed.
The economic crisis gathered beginning in mid-March, when restaurants, hotels and other businesses shuttered as mayors and governors issued stay-at-home orders to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
Some economists expect to see the black and Hispanic unemployment rate continue to rise faster than that of whites, even as states begin to reopen their economies in the coming weeks. The black unemployment rate is typically double that of whites.
“We are in such uncharted territory, but the recovery will be slower for black and Hispanic communities who are getting hit disproportionately hard,” said Heidi Shierholz, policy director at the Economic Policy Institute.AD
The Bureau of Labor Statistics noted that it saw a 13 percent drop in its survey response rate in April, leading Shierholz to believe that the full extent of black and Hispanic unemployment has yet to be captured.
Among all adults,15.5 percent of women lost their jobs in April, compared with 13 percent of men. Among workers ages 16 to 19 years old, 31.9 percent became unemployed.
People without a high school diploma experienced the highest unemployment rate, at 21.2 percent, whereas those with at least a bachelor’s degree posted the lowest unemployment, at 8.4 percent.
Some of the disparity could be explained by the industries in which Hispanics and African Americans, as well as young people, women and those with less education, tend to be concentrated, economists said — jobs impossible to do from home and which quickly succumbed to social distancing protocols and shutdown mandates.AD
While employment fell sharply in all major sectors, with 20.5 million people losing their jobs last month, Labor Department data shows that leisure and hospitality suffered particularly heavy losses.
Employment in leisure and hospitality plummeted by 7.7 million jobs, a decline of 47 percent in April. Nearly three-quarters of the losses occurred in food services and drinking establishments.
Retail employment lost 2.1 million jobs, especially in clothing stores. And construction, in which Hispanics make up more than a quarter of workers, shed nearly a million jobs. Hairdressers, auto repair, laundry and other service industries also saw huge dips in employment, along with education and health care, among others.
Among the workers counted in the survey were undocumented immigrants, many of whom are Hispanic and are facing extraordinarily challenging circumstances, Shierholz said. They generally do not have access to the federal safety net, such as food stamps, health care and subsidized housing; nor are they eligible to receive the $1,200 stimulus checks. Many are employed under the table in the food services industry, as hotel house keepers and in construction.AD
“There is huge job loss and zero relief,” Sheirholz said. “So that means the human suffering represented by those numbers are much more dramatic.”
Friday’s figures reaffirm results of a Washington Post-Ipsos poll released Wednesday, showing Hispanics and blacks — as well as younger and less-educated Americans — reporting higher rates of job losses.
Hamilton said the government’s official unemployment figures do not represent the full picture of economic pain, even before the coronavirus-induced recession. The evolving nature of work means many Americans were underemployed, working without health and retirement benefits in contractual jobs or as part of the gig economy. It’s going to be harder for them to recover, he said.
“Blacks are generally the last hired, and they will bear the brunt of this unless we do something transformative,” he said.AD
Hamilton is advocating direct federal income support to deal with the immediacy of the economic calamity, given that black and Hispanic households tend to have less wealth and savings than whites. That could mean another round of stimulus checks, he said, or government grants to companies to keep workers on the payroll.
Another step would be to change the way small businesses can access federal loans, he said, given that minority-owned businesses are less likely to have direct lines of credit with banks.
He also said the country needs a long-term strategy to help the most vulnerable communities recover once the economy is ready to reopen. Hamilton is pushing for a federal jobs guarantee, with direct government employment, to help Americans get back to work in a more equitable way and make workers less vulnerable to future employment crises.AD
“We need to be thinking about a new future for America that literally gets rid of involuntary unemployment,” Hamilton said.