The financial impacts of COVID-19 have varied widely by race and ethnicity. In the month of May, overall unemployment rates improved as many businesses were permitted to reopen. While the numbers from the Department of Labor’s May jobs report show a decline in overall unemployment, they also show an increase in unemployment for Black Americans.
In January, 1.2 million Black Americans were unemployed. In May, that number rose to 3.3 million and continues to climb. The average unemployment rate for Black Americans was recently reported at almost 4% higher than the overall national average.
According to the data from the Department of Labor, less than half of working-aged Black people are currently employed. Pew Research Center surveyed Americans to explore the impact on their lives, and they revealed noticeable racial and ethnic differences in job losses and pay cuts. One survey conducted shows that 48% of Black adults are having difficulties paying bills. This is compared to 28% of Hispanic adults and 26% of White adults.
In communities of color, the labor market is known to be unsteady when the overall economy is strong. When the economy takes a downward turn, this becomes extremely hazardous for these communities. During the pandemic specifically, workers of color are overrepresented in many of the low-wage jobs that are most vulnerable to potential layoffs. They are also less likely to have jobs that allow them to telework and have fewer assets and less liquidity to financially respond to an emergency, according to research gathered by the Center for American Progress.
How Businesses/Employers Can Help Improve These Numbers Moving Forward
There are actions that businesses can take to help hire and retain Black employees:
- First, employers can develop hiring and recruiting programs that provide targeted outreach to Black employment candidates. For example, companies such as adidas and Reebok have announced plans to hire Black and other employees of color for 30% of new jobs in the United States.
- Employers can also develop training, mentorship, and sponsorship programs for Black employees and candidates for employment. This will provide individuals with the opportunity to train for positions, trades, and professional fields that they may not normally have access to. For example, IBM is offering New Collar Job opportunities, where the focus is on skills and not degrees. Their innovative apprentice program allows individuals to develop skills, earn digital credentials, and make real-world contributions while also receiving a paycheck.
- Beyond low-level blue-collar jobs, employers should identify positions and opportunities for Black employees and candidates that provide living-wage jobs and upward mobility. This can be encouraged by offering opportunities for employees to continue their education and obtain certifications and other qualifications that will help them climb the ladder of success within the company and beyond.
Experienced Employment Law Attorney, Mediator, Arbitrator, Investigator, Legal and Media Commentator
Angela Reddock-Wright is an employment and labor law attorney, mediator, arbitrator, and workplace/Title IX investigator in Los Angeles, CA. Known as the “Workplace Guru,” Angela is an influencer and leading authority on employment, workplace/HR, Title IX, hazing, and bullying issues.
Angela is a regular legal and media commentator and analyst and has appeared on such media outlets as Law and Crime with Brian Ross, Court TV, CNN, ABC, CBS, KTLA, the Black News Channel, NPR, KPCC, Airtalk-89.3, KJLH Front Page with Dominique DiPrima, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the LA Times, People Magazine, Essence Magazine, the Los Angeles Sentinel, LA Focus, the Wave, and Our Weekly Newspapers.
Angela also is a member of the panel of distinguished mediators and arbitrators with Judicate West, a California company that represents the gold standard in dispute resolution. She also owns her own law firm, the Reddock Law Group of Los Angeles, specializing in workplace and Title IX discrimination, harassment and sexual assault investigations.
This communication is not legal advice. It is educational only. For legal advice, consult with an experienced employment law attorney in your state or city.