The NCSL Blog

24

By Zach Herman

The Department of Labor’s June release of the May unemployment numbers outlined a more hopeful picture of the economic recovery from the coronavirus, with the national unemployment rate falling to 13.3%.

A man walks past a store going out of business in Brooklyn, N.Y. on May 05, 2020.Angela Weiss / AFP - Getty ImagesThough the accuracy of the May unemployment rate has been called into question due to errors in classification, the number is still an improvement. Though approximately one in every seven people is still unemployed, the initial decrease is a sign that the recovery from the historic job losses experienced in March and April could come faster than expected.

However, the positive gains in employment were not felt evenly across race, gender, nationality or disability status. According to the June release of the Employment Situation, the number of people marginally attached to the workforce remains high.

Demographic Descriptors

April Unemployment Rate

May Unemployment Rate

White

14.2

12.4

Men

12.4

10.7

Women

15.0

13.1

Black

16.7

16.8

Men

16.1

15.5

Women

16.4

16.5

Asian

14.5

15.0

Men

*

*

Women

*

*

Latino

18.9

17.6

Men

16.7

15.1

Women

20.2

19.1

Foreign-Born Workers

*

15.7

Men

*

13.7

Women

*

18.4

*Rates were not reported in the June report.

In May, white people of both sexes, black men, and Latino people of both sexes saw a decline in their rate of unemployment. White men and white women saw the most significant declines in their unemployment rate, falling to 1 in every 10 white men and 1 in every 8 white women who were unemployed.

While Latino people saw an overall decline in their unemployment rate, Latino people continued to maintain some of the highest rates of unemployment across all demographic groups. Approximately 1 in 8 Latino men are unemployed, and approximately 1 in 5 Latino women are unemployed. Women across all demographic groups also had higher rates of unemployment than their male counterparts. Asian people, as well as black women, saw their unemployment rate increase.

 

Unemployment Rates for People with Disabilities

 

People With Disabilities

People Without Disabilities

Both Sexes

17.9

12.8

Men

17.8

11.7

Women

20.3

13.9

People with disabilities also reported a much higher unemployment rate than the national average, compared to those without disabilities. Approximately 1 in 5 women with a disability are unemployed. In contrast, for women without disabilities, that number drops to roughly 1 in 6. Women also have a higher rate of unemployment compared to their male counterparts regardless of disability status.

The total number of workers who are unemployed or underemployed remains high during this pandemic, at 21.1%.

As states and localities continue to loosen restrictions, it’s likely unemployment numbers will steadily decline. But to ensure certain demographics are not left out of economic recovery, states may look at ways to boost employment for all.

Some strategies states have recently look at are easing licensing requirements, potentially allowing more workers to enter licensed occupations, increasing job training and workforce efforts or finding ways for the state to hire employees directly, using federal funds. 

Zach Herman is a policy associate in NCSL’s Employment, Labor and Retirement Program.

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This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.