Unemployment rate rose for women and stayed flat for Black workers in October, even as overall jobs numbers improved

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  • The unemployment picture improved for Americans overall in October, but not for women and black workers.
  • The overall unemployment rate fell to 4.6% from 4.8% last month, but it rose from 4.2% for women to 4.4% and held steady at 7.9% for black workers.
  • Changes in employment compared to pre-pandemic levels show that women of every racial and ethnic group tracked by the Labor Department are lagging behind the overall US recovery.

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The unemployment picture improved for Americans overall in October, but not for women and black workers.

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While the overall unemployment rate fell to 4.6% from 4.8% last month, it rose for women and remained stable for black Americans, the Labor Department reported Friday.

October’s jobs report highlights the persistent disparity in labor recovery for women and black Americans.

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“The slowdown in the pandemic has adversely affected some groups,” said Alice Gould, senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute. “Recovery has yet to reach some of the groups that were the hardest hit.”

For adult male workers overall, the unemployment rate fell to 4.3% from 4.7% in October, while the unemployment rate for adult women rose 0.2 percent to 4.4%.

"During the coronavirus pandemic, "many female workers were hurt because of their types of jobs and their increased caregiving responsibilities to children and other family members," Gold said.

Job gains in nearly every sector returned in October, with US payrolls increasing by 531,000. But jobs in the government sector declined by 73,000.

Michelle Holder, president of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth and a labor economist, said, "Government employment is a sector in which women are disproportionately under-represented, so any contraction in the context of the government sector will affect women, and especially women of color. Very hard to impress." John Jay College.

For black workers overall in October, the unemployment rate held steady at 7.9% -- the highest of any racial or ethnic category tracked by the Labor Department.

The unemployment rate for black men rose to 8.3% from 8.0% in October, while the labor force participation rate also increased by half a percentage point.

But for black women, the unemployment rate fell from 7.3% to 7% as the labor force participation rate also dropped by 0.3 percent.

"The increase in the unemployment rate for black men is likely due to more people coming back into the labor force in search of jobs. ... Black women saw their unemployment rate decline between September and October, but unfortunately, it Wasn't because they saw employment gains," Gould said.

The unemployment rate for Hispanic workers fell to 5.9% from 6.3% in October, while the rate for Asian workers remained unchanged at 4.2%.

Changes in employment compared to pre-pandemic levels in February 2020 show that women of every racial and ethnic group tracked by the Labor Department are lagging behind the total US recovery.

Black women are among the laggards in recovery, falling 5.3% behind their pre-pandemic employment levels.

“What we are seeing is that the economy is recovering for a lot of groups, but the recovery is stalling for women, especially women of color,” Holder said.

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