What has been the fate of minorities through COVID-19 unemployment? Unemployment rates have risen in all racial groups across the United States. However, research shows that some racial groups have faired differently.

Many factors, including the type of jobs occupied by minorities, have affected the outcome. Which groups have been hit the hardest?

COVID Hit Unemployment Rates More than the Depression

The official May 2020 unemployment rate reached 16 percent, reported the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. But, the federal estimate greatly understates true unemployment numbers.

In fact, experts estimate that nine million Americans “were in want of a job” at that time. That compares with five million in February. The official measure of unemployment does not include these workers.

So, the COVID-19 recession not only exceeds the Great Recession (2007-2009). It tops that of the Great Depression of the 1930s. At that time, the unemployment rate reached 25 percent.

Statistics on Minorities Through COVID-19 Unemployment

Research from the Standford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR) used Current Population Survey (CPS) data to determine whether COVID-19 disproportionately affected minority unemployment.

African-Americans

During previous recessions, blacks faced unemployment rates double that of whites. And, during the current COVID-triggered recession, African-American unemployment rates reached 16.6 percent in May 2020.

Experts at SIEPR attributed the mix of industries employing blacks as a significant factor in the similar black to white ratio. Research showed only a “slightly disproportionate” difference between black and white unemployment rates.

Even so, the April rate increased, with black unemployment reaching 31.8 percent. Lower skill levels and unfavorable distribution of employment, according to SIEPR, influenced the April outcome.

Types of Jobs Most Affected by COVID-19

While the COVID-19 pandemic caused unemployment across all groups, certain job types have been hit harder than others. For example, in-person service providers received the biggest blows, according to data from Gallup.

Personnel in low-paying jobs also suffered high lay-off rates and reduced hours or wages. Additionally, “less-educated workers in low-wage, blue-collar roles have been hardest hit by COVID-19.”

Latinx Unemployment During the Pandemic

Contrary to the effect of the COVID-19 recession on black unemployment, it hit Latinx workers “disproportionately hard.” They suffered an unemployment rate of 18.2 percent in May 2020.

In addition, their unemployment rates rose much faster than those of both blacks and whites. SIEPR stated that their occupations, industries, and skill levels made them especially vulnerable to immediate layoffs. In April 2020 Latinx unemployment rates reached 31.4 percent.

Asian Americans

The SIEPR research did not touch upon Asian Americans. But, one certainly cannot ignore the group when reviewing minorities through COVID-19 unemployment.

“New York state saw a 10,210% year-over-year increase of unemployment filings among Asian Americans.”

ABC News

It was, according to ABC News, “the highest of any racial group — for the week ending April 11.” In the same week, it compared to jobless claims for …

  • black Americans at 1,927%

  • whites at 2,904%

  • Hispanic or Latino claims at 3,222%

According to data from Pew, Asian workers may have experienced a national unemployment rate as high as 20.3% in May. That puts them in similar ranges to black (19.8%) and Latinx (20.4%) unemployment rates. It puts them at 1.5 times the rate of white unemployment nationwide. In addition, the combination of increased discrimination and violence directed toward Asians hit them with a “double whammy.”

Minorities through COVID-19 Unemployment

Of course, the influence of the COVID-19 recession will extend far beyond the days of lockdown. It will also impact minority populations over the mid- and long-term.

Also affecting the minority population is the fact that individuals generally have smaller financial reserves than non-minorities. In addition, economic shutdown can …

“lead to immediate difficulty in meeting basic needs like nutrition and healthcare [and a] … wave of late payments on basic bills including housing.”

SIEPR

Even prior to the pandemic, minorities faced high rates of unemployment, compared to whites. But, COVID-19 disproportionately hit minorities.

Many occupied positions characterized by low-income or providing in-person services: the hardest hit jobs of all. Uneven job positioning as well as discriminatory factors leave these populations particularly vulnerable. 

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