What to watch on jobs day: The unemployment rate continues to climb but not equally for all demographic groups

by nyljaouadi1
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In April, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that 20.5 million jobs were lost and the unemployment rate rose faster than ever before, hitting 14.7%, the highest unemployment rate since the Great Depression. May’s unemployment rate is expected to be far higher. Initial unemployment insurance claims suggest an excess of 10 million more people lost their jobs between mid-April and mid-May, the reference period for tomorrow’s report.

In advance of tomorrow’s jobs data from BLS, let’s take a minute to look more closely at the unemployment rate across various demographic groups and consider the extent of economic pain missed in the official count of the unemployed. Because of the use of the microdata in our calculations, the numbers in the figure below are not seasonally adjusted and therefore do not match the topline seasonally adjusted data released by BLS. The microdata, however, allow us to measure the unemployment rate and calculate the adjusted unemployment rate across a variety of groups not reported by the BLS.

The official unemployment rate is in dark blue in Figure A below. As you can see, the unemployment rate is incredibly high across the board. Except for those with an advanced degree, the unemployment rate of all groups has exceeded the highest level the overall unemployment rate hit at the height of the Great Recession, when it reached 10.0% in 2009 (and all groups have exceeded their group’s highest unemployment of the Great Recession). Even though jobs were lost across the board, the data indicate that job losses were particularly stark for black and brown workers, those who are less likely to be able to economically weather the storm. Historically higher unemployment rates and lower liquid savings make job losses even more devastating for African American workers and their families.

The highest unemployment rates in April were found among women generally, black and Hispanic workers, and especially Hispanic women, whose unemployment rate hit 20.5% in April.

The figure also shows that young people have been hit especially hard in this pandemic recession. As of April, more than one quarter (28.1%) of 16-23 year olds are unemployed. Those graduating right now are in a particular tough spot, as they are experiencing extremely high unemployment rates and low job opportunities but do not qualify for unemployment insurance, even under the expansive definitions of the CARES Act. A jobs seekers unemployment insurance program would provide much needed assistance to these young people without sufficient or recent work histories to qualify under current programs.

Furthermore, the unemployment rate is much higher for workers with lower levels of educational attainment. Even among the relatively more credentialed, those with historically more opportunities in the labor market, one in 10 workers with a bachelor’s degree are unemployed.

Even historically high official unemployment rate understates the extent of economic pain: Official unemployment rate and the unemployment rate that takes into account all those workers who are out of work as a result of the virus, by demographic group, April 2020

Official unemployment rate Unemployment rate that takes into account all those out of work because of the virus
Overall 14.4% 23.4%
Women 15.7% 25.5%
Men 13.3% 21.6%
White 12.8% 20.5%
Black 16.5% 27.2%
Hispanic 18.5% 29.6%
Asian 14.5% 26.2%
White women 14.2% 22.6%
White men 11.6% 18.6%
Black women 16.6% 27.4%
Black men 16.4% 27.1%
Hispanic women 20.5% 33.8%
Hispanic men 16.9% 26.2%
Asian women 16.0% 26.8%
Asian men 13.1% 25.5%
Less than HS 23.7% 37.1%
High school 18.6% 30.2%
Some college 16.8% 26.3%
Bachelor degree 10.0% 16.7%
Advanced degree 6.3% 11.5%
Generation Z (16-23) 28.1% 43.8%
Millennial (24-39) 14.0% 21.9%
Generation X (40-55) 11.6% 18.8%
Baby Boomer (56-74) 13.4% 21.8%
Silent Generation (75+) 16.2% 33.6%
ChartData Download data

The data below can be saved or copied directly into Excel.