November Jobs Report: As Job Growth Continues, Fixing Unemployment Insurance Remains an Urgent Priority

Nationwide—Approximately 263,000 jobs were added in November, the unemployment rate remained at 3.7%, and 6.0 million workers were unemployed, essentially unchanged from October, according to this morning’s monthly jobs report. Unemployment rates dipped slightly for Black, Latinx, and Asian workers while holding steady for white workers. Nevertheless, Black workers continued to experience significantly higher unemployment (5.7%) than their white counterparts (3.2%). This enduring disparity is a result of structural racism embedded in the U.S. labor market.

“While continuing job growth is encouraging, policymakers must not forget the workers across the country who were laid off just before the holidays,” said Rebecca Dixon, executive director of the National Employment Law Project. “The Federal Reserve’s repeated interest rate hikes are predicted to raise unemployment, yet Congress has still not acted to fix the failing unemployment insurance (UI) system. Policymakers must move quickly to increase benefits so unemployed workers can pay rising costs, include unemployed workers who are currently shut out of the system, and ensure UI benefits don’t cut off before jobseekers have found work.”

Amid reports of record-breaking holiday sales and better-than-expected corporate earnings, strong job gains are another positive sign. Yet fears of rising unemployment persist. Amazon, Twitter, and other companies are reporting plans to cut corporate and technology jobs. The mass layoff of 2,700 factory workers and truck drivers at Mississippi-based United Furniture Industries has received far less media attention.

In reality, job loss seldom impacts all workers evenly: As a result of structural racism Black workers experience higher unemployment rates and are more likely to be unemployed for longer durations. Yet Black workers and other workers of color are disproportionately shut out of the unemployment insurance system, making reform a racial equity imperative.

Many industries continued to add jobs in November, including leisure and hospitality, health care and government. The increase in public sector jobs is particularly important for restoring services that workers depend on and as a long-time source of economic security for Black workers. Government employment is still down 461,000 since the onset of the pandemic.

“Time is of the essence,” said NELP’s Rebecca Dixon. “Before the next recession, Congress must act with urgency and 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.

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