American workers keep falling behind

The pandemic continues to take its greatest toll on the most vulnerable among us. It has widened existing inequalities, including with respect to wealth, race, and gender. Indeed, while those who lost their jobs are struggling to make ends meet, many others are seeing their bank and investment accounts swell. American household wealth hit a record high at the end of 2020!

A newly-released report from the California Policy Lab, covered by the New York Times, contains shocking statistics that show just how unequal the pandemic has been in its impact on California workers. The data show that, since the start of the pandemic, about 47% of California workers have applied for unemployment insurance (regular unemployment insurance and pandemic unemployment assistance). However, the most vulnerable workers have borne the brunt of this unemployment.

As I have written previously, the pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on low-wage workers, women, and people of color. The California Policy Lab report explores these inequities in depth, looking at the impact by race/ethnicity, gender, age, educational attainment, and industry. To give some examples:

  • About 90% of Black workers have filed for unemployment insurance benefits, as compared to about 41% of white workers.
  • Women have applied for unemployment insurance at a rate 6% higher than men (51% vs. 45%).
  • Workers with high school educations (or less) were nearly four times more likely to received benefits following the December extensions (55% vs. 14%).
  • Workers between the ages of 16 and 23 were particularly hard hit, with about 69% filing for unemployment insurance benefits, as compared to 40-48% of those in the other age demographics.

As of February 2021, nearly 20% of California workers are still receiving unemployment benefits, a rate that is 50% higher than the peak during the Great Recession; they are now “long-term unemployed.”

While we may be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel with the pandemic, our economy and unemployment levels have a long way to improve.

Pandemic Unemployment And Inequalities was last modified: March 19th, 2021 by Ramit Mizrahi
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