Posted December 8, 2023
Nationwide—New data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals that the economy gained 199,000 jobs in November and the unemployment rate fell to 3.7%. Included in the job gains were tens of thousands of autoworkers and actors who returned to work after successful strikes, as well as other workers who temporarily lost work due to the labor actions. In addition, the health care and government sectors added jobs.
The unemployment rate for Black men was 6.4%, double the unemployment rate for white men (3.2%). These disparities are a result of structural racism in the U.S. labor market.
“As we near the end of 2023, it is important to recognize the strong and historically rapid recovery the U.S. job market has made as a result of bold pro-worker economic investments during and after the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Rebecca Dixon, president and CEO of the National Employment Law Project. “The unemployment rate has been at 4% or less for two straight years, while average workers’ wages are growing faster than inflation. Low-paid workers and workers of color have experienced the greatest wage increases. But these gains are still not enough to ensure workers can thrive, and they could be wiped out by the next economic slowdown. Workers need more security to ensure they can recover from any future recession: That means permanently reforming unemployment insurance.”
6.3 million workers were unemployed in November, little changed from October.
The unemployment rate for Black workers remained steady at 5.8%. Yet if the economy slows, Black workers will face the greatest risk of losing the workplace gains made during the economic recovery. Researchers find that Black workers are often among the first laid off during a downturn as a result of structural racism. Meanwhile, Black workers are disproportionately excluded from access to unemployment insurance benefits. At the same time, new data suggests that companies are promoting Black workers at lower rates than just a few years ago.
The unemployment rate was 4.6% for Latinx workers in November, a decrease from 4.8% in October. Asian workers’ unemployment rate was 3.5%, an increase from 3.1% in October.
Unemployment insurance should act as a bridge so that anyone who is out of work can sustain themselves as they seek a new job. The Unemployment Insurance Modernization and Recession Readiness Act, introduced by Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Representative Don Beyer (D-VA), would strengthen this critical piece of social infrastructure by mandating that states offer at least 26 weeks of unemployment benefits, raising benefit amounts to replace a greater share of workers’ prior earnings, and increasing coverage for part-time workers, temp workers, and workers whose earnings fluctuate over time. The bill also establishes a new, federally funded Jobseekers Allowance to support jobless workers who would not otherwise be covered by unemployment insurance and modernizes the Extended Benefits program that makes additional weeks of unemployment benefits available in times of high unemployment.