Black women reported a drop in unemployment from 7% to 5%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ November employment situation report. This was the largest drop among any other race/ethnic and gender groups in the report, though Black men were close, dropping from 8.3% to 7.3%.
Overall, November was a month of positive growth for Black people in the workforce. The employment to population ratio in Black women rose in November, which means that the drop in unemployment could mean that people are getting jobs as opposed to leaving the workforce, economists told CNBC.
“Yes, employers are finally hiring Black workers. They’re still the last of the queue,” William Spriggs, chief economist to the AFL-CIO and a Howard University professor, said to CNBC.
This increase in employment is especially important because Black people have been lagging behind other race/ethnic groups in terms of labor market recovery throughout the pandemic. However, even though this is a good sign, “the division in economic recovery is glaring,” Jennifer Ford wrote in a piece published on Nasdaq.
“I don’t think we can celebrate quite yet,” Elise Gould, a senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute, told The 19th*. “I’m hopeful this means recovery is finally reaching them. … I’m also really cautious because this data comes with a lot of volatility.”
The 19th* further explains that, with Black women, the drop in unemployment is for a mixed reason, making it neither good nor bad. A large number left the workforce, meaning they are not actively looking for work, so the rate could be lower because the workforce is smaller. On the other hand, the unemployment rate could have gone down because the working-age population compared to the number of people employed went up, leading to a smaller rate of unemployment.
Using historic Bureau of Labor Statistics data, Brookings compared unemployment by race and gender going back to October 2020. Black women have an average unemployment rate of 8.29, while Black men have an average rate of 9.72 over those 12 months. Those are the highest rates for men and women among all three groups Brookings studied, and the Black unemployment averages are about twice the white averages for both genders.
This is nothing new, according to Duke University economist William Darity. He told NBC News that, since the federal government began tracking unemployment data in terms of race, Black people have generally had twice the unemployment rate of white people.
“It typically has held up in that way, regardless of whether the economy is in an upturn or downtown,” Darity told NBC. “As a consequence, there really has never been an improvement in the Black unemployment rate that has brought it into parity with the white unemployment rate. That holds regardless of educational attainment.”