August Jobs Report: Job Growth Slows and Unemployment Rises for Black and Latinx Workers

Nationwide—The unemployment rate rose to 3.7% in August according to this morning’s monthly jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, up by 0.2% from last month. Overall, 315,000 jobs were added, yet 6.0 million workers were unemployed. White workers’ unemployment rate showed little change at 3.2%, yet Black workers’ jobless rate rose 0.4% and is now double that of white workers at 6.4%. Latinx workers unemployment rates also rose 0.6% to 4.5%. These disparities are a result of structural racism embedded in the U.S. labor market.

“Policymakers cannot rest easy when the unemployment rate for Black workers is twice as high as the rate for white workers,” said Rebecca Dixon, executive director of the National Employment Law Project. “We must address structural inequities in the economy—including by overhauling the unemployment insurance system that should be supporting jobless workers yet is falling far short.”

“Last month saw a troubling rise in unemployment for workers of color,” Dixon said. “The consequences of rising unemployment can be devastating for workers and their families. The current unemployment insurance system is failing jobless workers. Congress must act to overhaul the unemployment insurance system to ensure that unemployed workers get the support they need to pay rising costs while they look for new jobs.”

The 6.4% unemployment rate for Black workers in August was an increase from 6% in July, while the 4.5% unemployment rate for Latinx workers in August was an increase from 3.9%. Asian workers experienced an unemployment rate of 2.8%—a slight increase from 2.6%.

The COVID-19 pandemic is continuing to affect workers. In August, 1.9 million workers were unable to work because their employer closed or lost business due to the pandemic—this measure is down from 2.2 million the previous month, yet still significant. Only 21.5% of these workers received any pay from their employer for the hours not worked. In addition, 523,000 workers were prevented from looking for work due to the pandemic.

Before the next recession, Congress must implement permanent, structural reform of the unemployment insurance system. Senator Ron Wyden’s Unemployment Insurance Improvement Act would begin to address some significant ways the unemployment insurance system disproportionately excludes Black and Latinx workers, women workers, and workers with disabilities. It does so by providing at least 26 weeks of unemployment benefits, increasing coverage for part-time workers, and expanding eligibility by requiring states to consider workers’ most recent earnings and standardizing earning requirements. These reforms lay the groundwork for transforming our unemployment insurance system and enabling all workers to thrive.


The National Employment Law Project is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization that conducts research and advocates on issues affecting underpaid and unemployed workers. For more about NELP, visit Follow NELP on Twitter at @NelpNews.

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