Posted June 3, 2022
Nationwide—In May, the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 3.6%. This morning’s monthly jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics also shows that 390,000 jobs were created and 6.0 million workers remained unemployed. The unemployment rate for Black workers (6.2%) was nearly twice as high as the rate for white workers (3.2%). Among Latinx workers the unemployment rate was 4.3%, and Asian workers experienced 2.4% unemployment. These disparities are a result of structural racism embedded in the U.S. labor market.
Strengthening unemployment insurance is critical to racial equity, as job growth continues to be uneven.
“Losing a job can be catastrophic for workers and their families, even if jobs are growing overall,” said Rebecca Dixon, executive director of the National Employment Law Project. “Workers should be able to depend on unemployment insurance (UI) for support as they seek new jobs that match their skills. Yet we continue to see elevated unemployment rates for workers of color, even as the UI system disproportionately excludes Black and Latinx workers from receiving benefits. Congress must act to repair the flawed and inadequate UI system.”
Strengthening unemployment insurance is critical to racial equity, as job growth continues to be uneven. In May, the gap between Black and white women was notable: just 2.9% of white women were unemployed, compared to 5.9% of Black women. While unemployment rates fell for most demographic groups, unemployment rose slightly among women, particularly Black and Latinx women. This was partly the result of more women of color returning to the labor force in May.
The unemployment insurance system disproportionately excludes Black and Latinx workers from receiving benefits.
A new study by the Federal Reserve Board highlights how public supports, such as expanded unemployment insurance, stimulus payments, and the enhanced child tax credit, reduced economic hardship and improved financial well-being, especially among Black and Latinx households that were hit hardest by pandemic economic disruptions. Yet these programs have now expired, leaving struggling families without support. Economists increasingly warn of the risk of another recession that could again throw people out of work.
Policymakers must implement permanent, structural reform of the unemployment insurance system before the next recession. 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.