April Jobs Report: Job Growth Slows Just as Black Workers See More Gains

Nationwide—Approximately 253,000 jobs were gained in April and the unemployment rate declined slightly to 3.4%. New data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics also reveals that 5.7 million workers were unemployed last month. In March, the unemployment rate for Black workers reached a record low of 5.0% even as more Black workers entered the labor market. The positive trend continued as 4.7% of Black workers were unemployed in April, although Black workers’ labor force participation also declined.

“Full employment can help workers power the shift to a good jobs economy, and it is finally beginning to work for Black workers and for many underpaid workers who are experiencing real wage gains,” said Rebecca Dixon, president and CEO of the National Employment Law Project. “At the same time, inflation is falling. It is an affront to workers that the Federal Reserve has chosen to continue raising interest rates, threatening to throw the economy into recession and undercut these hard-won employment gains.”

A recent report by the National Employment Law Project and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reveals just how unprepared the unemployment insurance (UI) system is for a recession. Because the UI system leaves so many workers without benefits or with inadequate benefits—even as states are still struggling with claims backlogs and funding shortfalls from the pandemic recession—another economic downturn will require emergency measures to address rising unemployment. At the same time, Congress needs to permanently fix the long-standing deficiencies in the UI system so that new emergency legislation isn’t necessitated for every future recession.

In April, the unemployment rate for Latinx workers declined slightly from 4.6% to 4.4%. Latinx women saw particular gains. The unemployment rate for Asian workers held steady at 2.8%. Among white workers, the unemployment rate was 3.1%.

Leisure and hospitality, a traditionally underpaying industry where Latinx and Asian workers are overrepresented as a result of occupational segregation, added 31,000 jobs in April. Employment in leisure and hospitality still remains just below its pre-pandemic level, even as wages in the industry have grown more quickly over the last year than in any other economic sector.

Congress must act to build an unemployment insurance system that will support all workers at all times. This includes establishing minimum federal standards for UI eligibility, benefit duration, and benefit adequacy that all state unemployment systems must meet; ensuring equitable access to UI benefits; modernizing and reforming the Extended Benefits program; and establishing additional emergency UI programs that automatically trigger on during periods of high unemployment. This also includes adequate and sustained funding for UI administration, oversight, and IT modernization, which is essential to ensure timely and accurate payments. A transformed unemployment insurance system will strengthen the economy and enable all workers to thrive.

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