COVID-19 Justice

During pandemic, more Black workers unemployed but can’t get unemployment

Surveys show that even after expanded unemployment rules, Black workers can't get the same assistance as others.

Unemployment is at historic highs thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. Much of that economic pain has been blunted thanks to Congressional action that expanded who was eligible to receive unemployment assistance.

However, not everyone has received that help equally. A recent survey from NORC at the University of Chicago shows that nationwide just 13% of jobless Black people were able to get unemployment benefits – that’s compared to 22% of Hispanic people and 24% of white people.

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“In every recession, we see these same disparities,” said William Spriggs, a Howard University economist who analyzed the data, according to an article on Route Fifty.

That’s in part because systems haven’t changed as the nature of employment has changed in the U.S. More and more people are turning to things like gig-work to make a living. That includes things like driving for Lyft and delivering groceries for Shipt.

“Our unemployment system has not kept up with the changing demographics of the American labor force,” said Spriggs.

But even when Black people do get assistance, it is often not equivalent to what white people get. That’s because unemployment benefits are based on how much a person made at their last job, and Black people statistically make less than white people.

“If your historical earnings reflect labor market discrimination, you’re going to get hit with lower benefits,” said Jared Bernstein, a fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. “The underlying formulas of the system reflect this historical discrimination.”

You can read the full story here.

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