It is encouraging to see a decline in the unemployment rate for Black women, but labor experts caution against drawing any erroneous conclusions about workplace equity from the pattern.
In January, the unemployment rate for the total Black population came in at 5.4%, according to seasonally adjusted statistics provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday. The rate hasn’t increased since August.
Black women’s gains saw their unemployment rate for adults, excluding teens, fall to 4.7% in January from 5.5% in December, contributing to the decline in Black unemployment in January. Comparatively, the jobless rate for black men increased from 5.1% in December to 5.3% in January.
Both the overall and female unemployment rates for Black people are at their lowest points in more than a year. Black men’s unemployment rates were last below 5% in September 2019, while Black women’s rates were last below 5% in November 2021.
White, Asian, and Hispanic/Latino workers’ jobless rates all rose from December to January. However, when compared to white, Asian, and Hispanic/Latino workers, Black workers have the highest unemployment rate.
The discrepancies still exist, according to Kate Bahn, director of labor market policy and principal economist at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth. “Sometimes when people see change, they interpret it as positive, but the disadvantages are still there,” she said. Although convergence is beneficial, it is still unequal.
Bahn claimed that anti-Black racism is the sole cause of the rate’s proportional increase. She gave instances of employment discrimination against Black people and a higher risk of layoffs for Black workers. Although a tight labor market may help Black people overcome some of these obstacles, she added, legislative adjustments would be necessary to achieve a more equitable workplace.
Black women experienced greater increases in employment-to-population ratios, which display the proportion of the population that is employed. Between December and January, Black women witnessed an increase of 1.1 percentage points, while Black men saw a gain of 0.2 percentage points.
The total number of employed people increased, according to both groups.
According to Valerie Wilson, director of the Economic Policy Institute’s program on race, ethnicity, and the economy, January can be a particularly challenging month to identify trends because demographic data changes as the year progress.
Despite a decrease in the percentage of unemployed people in the same demographic, there are more Black women without jobs according to statistics.
She claimed that the tightness of the broader labor market was at least partially to blame for the increases in employment. At 3.4% for January, the unemployment rate was lower than analysts had predicted and were at its lowest level since May 1969.
“We tend to start noticing larger shifts among groups who have higher rates of unemployment when you get to those incredibly low rates of unemployment,” Wilson said. “You’re more likely to be the one to fill a new opening if you’re still looking for work and are already unemployed.”
Additionally, just because Black women and Black people, in general, are obtaining jobs at higher rates doesn’t automatically indicate those who land those jobs are doing well. She emphasized how the rate of pay increase seemed to be slowing down. The industry that Wilson claimed normally pays less than other areas, hospitality, and leisure, also added the most jobs this month.
It truly depends on how you define better off or being injured, according to Wilson. For those looking for work, there are more jobs available. That may not necessarily indicate anything about the caliber of those jobs on their own.
The fact that you can obtain employment is at least a marginal improvement over not having employment, she continued, “but I don’t think any job is better than no job at all.”