Racial employment divide continues in recovering U.S. economy
A pedestrian wearing a face mask walks at Brooklyn Bridge Park in New York, the United States, on April 28, 2020. /Xinhua

A pedestrian wearing a face mask walks at Brooklyn Bridge Park in New York, the United States, on April 28, 2020. /Xinhua

As vaccines help quell coronavirus infections, millions of Americans have gone back to work but fewer Black and Hispanic workers are being rehired, entrenching persistent inequalities in the United States.

The divides are fueled by long-running employment discrimination, experts say, worsened by unique, virus-related disruptions that have left many jobseekers unable to find work they can get to, or feel safe doing.

"We haven't actually addressed those underlying power disparities in the economy," said Kate Bahn, director of labor market policy with the Washington Center for Equitable Growth.

After skyrocketing to 14.7 percent in April 2020 when business restrictions to stop the virus from spreading were at their tightest, the U.S. unemployment rate dropped to 5.9 percent in June, according to the Labor Department.

But the gains were not shared equally: the jobless rate for Black workers was 9.2 percent and for Hispanics 7.4 percent, compared with 5.2 percent for whites.

The racial and ethnic employment gaps in the world's largest economy were present even when unemployment was at record lows before the pandemic.

In Washington, the issue is receiving renewed attention from President Joe Biden, who has put forth massive spending plans he says will help reshape the economy and make it more inclusive.

"When I started studying economics in 1963, the average Black family's wealth was roughly 15 percent of the average white family's," Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Thursday.

"What is surprising, however, is that it's almost six decades later, and the data point has barely changed. It's still 15 percent."

The Federal Reserve has also pledged to keep interest rates low for longer to increase hiring of racial minorities something that took nearly a decade following the 2008 global financial crisis.

"We all do better when the pie is bigger, and you get the pie bigger by being aggressive about this," William Spriggs, chief economist of the AFL-CIO trade union federation, told AFP.

The Labor Department is due to release the latest employment report on Friday, which some economists expect will show the economy gaining over one million jobs in July, lowering the unemployment rate to 5.6 percent as more businesses reopen.

The June data showed unemployment for white women was five percent, despite losing jobs last year at about the same rate as Black workers, who have seen much slower rehiring. The trend is similar for Hispanics.

"There is a fixed disparity between Blacks and whites in terms of being rehired," Spriggs said.

A higher share of Black women are looking for jobs than white women, but large and small companies nationwide nonetheless complain they cannot find people to fill open positions, especially skilled workers.

"These employers are all yelling we can't find workers, we can't find workers. Black women are more available and yet they're not hiring them," Spriggs said.

Source(s): AFP

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