Today’s new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for February reveal that the economy is starting to show signs of softening and that gains for women of color – who have long been marginalized in the labor market – are at risk.
Black women’s unemployment rate rose above 5 percent in February after hitting a COVID-era low the month before and Latinas are looking at their highest unemployment rate in a year. Asian women’s unemployment rate increased 15 percent last month – the largest increase for any group. Those increases are substantially larger than the upticks for workers overall, or for white men or women.
What is causing unemployment rates to rise? An important piece of context is that employment-to-population ratios (the number of people who have jobs, relative to the total number in the population) remained steady for Black women and Latinas. That means that most of their increases in unemployment can be attributed to more women looking for work. But the fact that these unemployed workers are having a harder time finding jobs makes clear that recent labor market gains for Black women and Latinas could be at risk. These indicators – as well as moderating wage growth – mean the Fed must pause interest rate increases to make sure any economic “fixes” do not do more harm than good.
Instead of painful rate hikes, policymakers should focus on supporting women in the labor market, including ensuring that caregiving responsibilities are not a barrier to employment, that women’s work is not undervalued and that women are able to enter growing, well-paid industries like construction and manufacturing.
Read our full analysis of the #JobsReport on Twitter:
A big story this month is the jump in unemployment rates for some groups. Black women’s unemployment rate is back up above 5% after hitting a COVID-era low in January and Latinas are looking at their highest unemployment rate in a year. 2/8 pic.twitter.com/S9AC4I33Ut— Dr. Kate Gallagher Robbins (@kfgrobbins) March 10, 2023