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Black workers see rising unemployment

Commuters arrive at Grand Central Station during the morning rush hour in New York City on November 18, 2021.

Jeena Moon | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The U.S. labor market showed strong growth and falling unemployment in July, but unemployment rose among black workers, further underscoring lingering labor market divergence.

Friday’s data report showed nonfarm payrolls rose 528,000 in July, beating Dow Jones estimates of 258,000, while the unemployment rate fell to 3.5%, the Bureau said. of Labor Statistics.

While the results indicate the economy is moving in the right direction, black workers were the only demographic group to see the unemployment rate rise.

Overall, unemployment stands at 6% for the group. When broken down by gender, black men saw unemployment rise to 5.7%, while the rate fell to 5.3% among women.

“We may have really, really strong job growth this month, but that doesn’t look like a robust, broadly shared recovery,” said Kathryn Zickuhr, labor market policy analyst at the Washington Center for Equitable. Growth.

Meanwhile, the labor force participation rate, which tracks the number of people employed or looking for work, rose among black women to 62.3% in July from 62% in June. . However, the rate declined among men, dropping to 67.3% in July from 68.1% the previous month.

It was also slightly lower for black workers overall, slipping to 62% last month from 62.2% in June.

It’s hard to decipher what contributed to this change, said Valerie Wilson, director of the Economic Policy Institute’s program on race, ethnicity and the economy.

“I don’t know to what extent that’s a sign of something really changing or just volatility in the data, because the longer-term trend has been quite positive, quite strong,” she said.

Strong advances for women

Women continued to make progress in getting back to work. The unemployment rate fell slightly to 3.1% for women aged 20 and over, compared to 3.3% in June.

Continued strong job growth from last month among women indicates the gain could be more than “just a blow,” said AFL-CIO chief economist William Spriggs.

Broken down by ethnicity, Hispanic workers who are women saw a sharp drop in the unemployment rate, which fell to 3.2% in July. The previous month, it was 4.5%.

While black working women saw their unemployment rate drop to 5.3%, it was still above the 2.6% rate for white women, an indicator of a longer-term trend, Nicole Mason said, President and CEO of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

At the same time, reopening trends contributed to a recovery in the hospitality and leisure industry, which created 96,000 jobs. Latinas and other women of color are often overrepresented in the service industry, which could explain some numbers, she added.

That said, the data doesn’t paint a picture of the broader market as childcare and nursing continue to lag the overall recovery as they offer lower wages and lack support. benefits, added Mason.

Despite these persistent gaps, she remains optimistic about the future of the labor market.

“The numbers can change or decrease and we continue to add jobs, which I think is a very good thing,” Mason said. “I’m cautiously optimistic about growth, but I believe we’re more than headed in the right direction.”

Gabriel Cortes contributed reporting

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