BUSINESS Racial employment divide continues in recovering US economy


Racial employment divide continues in recovering US economy


09:43, August 04, 2021

As vaccines help quell Covid-19 cases, millions of Americans have gone back to work -- but fewer Black and Hispanic workers are being rehired, entrenching persistent inequalities in the United States.

Propspective employees are interviewed during a job fair at AltaMed Health Services on July 9, 2021 in Huntington Park, California. (Photo: AFP)

The divides are fueled by long-running employment discrimination, experts say, worsened by unique, virus-related disruptions that have left many jobseekers unable to find work they can get to, or feel safe doing.

"We haven't actually addressed those underlying power disparities in the economy," said Kate Bahn, director of labor market policy with the Washington Center for Equitable Growth.

After skyrocketing to 14.7 percent in April 2020 when business restrictions to stop the virus from spreading were at their tightest, the US unemployment rate dropped to 5.9 percent in June, according to the Labor Department.

But the gains were not shared equally: the jobless rate for Black workers was 9.2 percent and for Hispanics 7.4 percent, compared with 5.2 percent for whites.

The racial and ethnic employment gaps in the world's largest economy were present even when unemployment was at record lows before the pandemic.

In Washington, the issue is receiving renewed attention from President Joe Biden, who has put forth massive spending plans he says will help reshape the economy and make it more inclusive.

And the Federal Reserve has pledged to keep interest rates low for longer to increase hiring of racial minorities -- something that took nearly a decade following the 2008 global financial crisis.

"We all do better when the pie is bigger, and you get the pie bigger by being aggressive about this," William Spriggs, chief economist of the AFL-CIO trade union federation, told AFP.

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