When news reports announce a percentage of unemployment in the country, rest assured that those numbers do not reflect the nation’s minorities.
And this may have been a story that repeats itself frequently in the daily headlines, considering the impact that the coronavirus pandemic has had on the nation.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 701,000 jobs were lost in March — that’s not including the nearly 10 million people who filed for jobless benefits in the last two weeks.
“While the unemployment rate increased to 4.4% from 3.5% in the official report, the last two weeks of unemployment benefit filings suggest that the true rate is probably about 18.3% for adults,” William Rodgers, chief economist at the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University, told CNN.
Among those adults, Hispanics and African-Americans have been hit the hardest, at 18.7 percent and 20.7 percent respectively.
As the BLS report continues, “about 30% of workers at hotels in 2019 were Hispanic, and another 19% [were] black. Restaurants, bars and other food services, which have been particularly hard hit, had 27% of workers last year who were Hispanic, and 13% who were black.”
“At department stores,” it adds, “most of which have shut down because of the crisis, 19% of employees were black and another 19% were Hispanic. The catchall labor department category that includes temporary workers, custodial help and landscaping services lost 61,000 jobs. About half of those workers are minorities.”
But for Rodgers, what these figures hide is even more shocking: “The unemployment rate for women right now is lower than the overall unemployment rate, partly because women are well represented in the fields of nursing and primary and secondary education, which so far have been spared job cuts. But job cuts in these sectors are likely in coming months,” he said, “particularly since women tend to hold government jobs that could be cut as states and cities respond to budget shortfalls.”
In the United States, 76 percent of the health care workforce is female, including nurses, nurse practitioners, health aides and even a majority of doctors under the age of 45 are female.
Women also represent the bulk of the economic sectors most affected by business closures in the country, simultaneously accounting for 40 percent of the livelihood of American households.
From small business owners to single mothers, this is the demographic group that will suffer the true impact of the virus in the long run.
Although states like New York have implemented containment measures such as a $15 minimum wage, paid family leave, guaranteed paid sick leave, equal pay childcare funding “and tough laws on domestic violence,” Congress has failed to pass these protections nationally.
“The toll this crisis will take on millions of women is vast and we can’t afford to let this national moment pass without embracing this opportunity to right some of the wrongs that have plagued women long before the coronavirus,” Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul (D-N.Y.) and Lauren Leader wrote in their column for The Hill.
“Lawmakers have a responsibility to consider women’s challenges, but it is also critical that women themselves speak up and speak out to their representatives from Town Halls to the halls of Congress,” they concluded.