October Jobs Report: Disparities Persist as Unemployment Ticks Up

Nationwide—In October, the unemployment rate was 3.7%, an increase from 3.5% the previous month. This morning’s monthly jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics also shows that 261,000 jobs were gained and 6.1 million workers were unemployed, an increase of 306,000 from September. The unemployment rate for Black workers was 5.9%, nearly twice the rate for white workers (3.2%). These disparities are a result of structural racism embedded in the U.S. labor market.

“Despite what some corporate executives may say, continued job growth is a positive trend,” said Rebecca Dixon, executive director of the National Employment Law Project. “It’s a good thing when more workers can find jobs and have a greater degree of power in the labor market. But rising unemployment hurts workers and their communities. As companies pad their profits by raising prices, policymakers must focus on ensuring underpaid and unemployed workers can afford higher costs, for example by raising the minimum wage and strengthening the nation’s unemployment insurance system.”

The unemployment rate in October was 4.2% for Latinx workers, an increase from 3.8% in September. Asian workers’ unemployment rate was 2.9%, an increase from 2.5% in September.

Industries with the greatest increases in jobs include health care, professional and technical services, and manufacturing.

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.

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