Here’s the most damning statistic you’re going to see today, from a Bloomberg report on how the economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is leaving behind minority communities in cities across the country. In March, while the unemployment rate for White workers in the Dallas metro area was at about 5 percent, the jobless rate for Black workers fell to more than 14 percent. The overall national unemployment rate is about 6 percent.
Bloomberg calculated the above local unemployment rates using the monthly Current Population Survey of about 60,000 households, which is sponsored jointly by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau, and will be following their progress throughout the year.
This analysis—combined with regional data such as housing prices, job listings and small business loans from the Paycheck Protection Program—shows that many minority communities are currently lagging behind. The latest metro-area vaccination rates, which tend to outpace the country as a whole, aren’t showing up in the March unemployment rates as a differentiator, but may play a bigger role in the coming months.
The analysis looks at 15 metro areas where the unemployment data tell similar stories, although Phoenix and San Francisco are outliers, where the disparity is not nearly so pronounced. A lot’s already been written about how the COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed many of the inequities we were already living with. That seems true as well of the recovery we’re now seeing, as Bloomberg says:
The varying speeds matter because the Federal Reserve and the White House vowed to look beyond aggregate figures to more broad-based data before adjusting their monetary and fiscal policies. Fed Chair Jerome Powell says he will base interest rate decisions in part on improvement in metrics that historically take longer to recover from downturns—like national Black unemployment, wage growth for low-income workers and labor force participation for those without college degrees.
The Biden administration has stated that a more inclusive economy is key to a recovery. The Department of Labor is looking closely at data like the economic impact of the pandemic on labor force participation of Black women, who experienced the biggest drop between February and December 2020. In a February report, chief economist Janelle Jones wrote “No economic recovery can be complete if some communities are left behind.”