Black and Hispanic Women Still Behind as Jobs Rebound
The labor market recovery is uneven. Teenagers are flooding back into jobs, while those older than 55 are less likely to work than before the pandemic.
Black and Hispanic women are still behind as jobs rebound.
June 4, 2021, 11:34 a.m. ET
Black and Hispanic women are lagging furthest in returning to work.
Percent change in the number of employed people since before the pandemic, by race, ethnicity and gender
As Americans regain jobs in a healing economy, some groups are making faster progress than others — and Hispanic and Black women lag the most.
About 741,000 fewer Black women were employed in May than in February 2020, a 7 percent decline. Roughly 890,000 fewer Hispanic women were employed, down 7.2 percent. Although Americans across racial and gender groups are gaining jobs — and women actually made greater gains than men in May — those persistent shortfalls underline that a long road remains before the labor market returns to its former strength.
Women have faced special challenges during the unusual recession wrought by the coronavirus pandemic. As state and local lockdowns closed schools, women were left shouldering new child care burdens to a greater extent than men. Women, and especially those in minority groups, are also more likely to work in many face-to-face service jobs that disappeared amid lockdowns.
Economic officials say child care issues and health concerns could be influencing how quickly adults return to work. Unemployment insurance, government checks and savings amassed during months stuck at home may allow some workers to be picky as they search for new jobs.
As those trends play out, progress is also diverging sharply by age. Teenagers are flooding back into the labor market, working at a rate not seen in more than a decade. Workers older than 55, on the other hand, remain much less likely to work than before the pandemic and have made little progress in recent months.
The progress of Americans in their prime working years — which economists define as 25 to 54 years old — falls somewhere in between. A climbing share work as jobs return, but employment rates remain well below their February 2020 level.
Loretta Mester, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, says she is watching for more of a recovery in the prime-age labor force participation rate, which tracks adults who are working or looking for jobs.
“We still have further progress to make,” she said in an interview on CNBC after the jobs report was released.