How the COVID-19 Pandemic Impacted the Racial Gap in Unemployment

New data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the work experience of the population. In 2020, when the pandemic struck, 19.4 percent of the Black civilian workforce (those who were employed or seeking work) experienced unemployment at some point during the year. More than 4.2 million Black workers were unemployed at some point during the year. Only 14.8 percent of the White civilian workforce experienced unemployment.

In 2020, the median number of weeks that African Americans experienced unemployment was 23.1. For Whites, the median number of weeks they were unemployed was 16.6.

By 2021, while the number of people with COVID-19 was still widespread and vaccinations were just beginning, the employment situation had improvided but unemployment was still widespread. In 2021, 13.2 percent of the Black civilian labor force experienced unemployment at some point during the year. For the White civilian labor force, 8.8 percent were unemployed sometime in 2021.

The median number of unemployed weeks for Black workers in 2021 was 19.7. For Whites, the median number of weeks they were unemployed was 14.9.


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