Black Workers, News

Coronavirus is a jobs killer

But this is just the beginning…

March unemployment chart. Source U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics


By Frederick H. Lowe

The black unemployment rate jumped in March, sparked by the coronavirus pandemic which led to loss of 701,000 jobs. And guess what, the worst is yet to come.

The jobless rate for blacks was a seasonally adjusted 6.7 percent in March compared with 6.6 percent for the same month a year earlier.

The unemployment rate for black men 20 and older was 7.0 percent in March compared with 6.7 percent for the same month a year ago.

The jobless rate for black women 20 and older was 5.2 percent in March, slightly down from 5.3 percent for the same month a year earlier.

All racial and ethnic groups experienced higher jobless numbers, but blacks had it worse.

Outdated information used in the March survey

Heidi Shierholz, director of policy for the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, said it’s important to note that because of the timing of the data collection for the recent jobless survey, the job loss number of 701,000 is hopelessly outdated.

“The reference period for the survey is the payroll period that includes March 12. Even though that was only three weeks ago, things have changed so fast since then that the data released today are, well, genuinely old,” Shierholz explained.

William W. Beach, commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, agreed with Shierholz, saying the March survey predated many business and school closures that occurred in the second half of the month.

Unemployment rate jumps and it will get worse

The unemployment rate jumped from 3.5% to 4.4%, the highest rate in three years.

Elise Gould, economist at the Economic Policy Institute, said the 701,000 jobs lost in March was the highest since September 2010, but things will be much worse when the next jobs report is published May 8.

Major job losses in retail and hospitality

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that employment fell by 417,000 in food services and drinking places in March because many restaurants and bars cut back operations.

Employment also declined by 61,000 in health care and social assistance in March. Health care employment dropped by 43,000 with losses occurring in offices of dentists (-17,000), office of physicians (-12,000) and offices of other health practitioners (-7,000), reported BLS.

Employment in retail trade decreased by 46,000 with job losses in clothing stores ( -16,000), furniture stores (-10,000); sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores (-9,000), but employment increased in general merchandise stores by 10,000.

In March, the number of unemployed increased from 1.4 million to 7.1 million. The jump in the unemployment rate was the largest single-month change since June 1975, when it also increased by a 0.9 percentage point, BLS reported.

March’s unemployment rate for Hispanics (6.0%), Blacks (6.7%), Asians (4.1 %), Whites (4.0 %).




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