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The American economy has been in freefall since the outbreak of the current novel coronavirus — and Latinos face the most widespread unemployment.
Job loss is impacting Latinos and immigrant communities at higher rates than their peers during the pandemic, according to recently published data from the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER).
The pandemic is not only forcing more Latinos out of work, but it will have long-lasting ripple effects across the nation, according to Dr. Rogelio Sáenz, a professor in the Department of Demography at the University of Texas at San Antonio.
“Over the last several decades, Latinos have represented the engine propelling the U.S. economy,” Sáenz writes in a National Association for Community Asset Builders blog post. “While people throughout the country suffer from the massive assault of the pandemic, Latinos are disproportionately impacted, facing high levels of job loss over the last couple of months.”
Update 8/28/20: Since the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, over 58 million people have filed for unemployment for the first time, including another 1 million last week, CNBC reports. This marks the 22nd of 23 weeks that weekly jobless claims surpassed 1 million.
Update 9/4/20: While the U.S. unemployment rate fell from around 10% to 8.4%, jobless rates remained higher among Blacks (13%) and Latinos (10.5%) compared to whites (7.3%), Bloomberg Economics reports.
Update 10/8/20: Job recovery is slowing, as a nother 840,000 workers filed for initial unemployment benefits last week, CNN reported. “Every person who can go back to work is a win in this crisis. But the improvement in first-time benefit claims is small to say the least, as they remain about four-times higher as they were before the pandemic.”
What Do the Unemployment Numbers Say?
Even in economic downturns, the Latino and immigrant community tends to bounce back.
However, Sáenz says that might not be the case this time.
“Despite being hurt significantly in the Great Recession of 2008, Latinos recuperated relatively well to be the major drivers of the economy over the last dozen years,” he writes. “Yet, the Covid-19 pandemic is likely to have a longer-lasting impact than the economic downturn associated with the Great Recession of the previous decade.”
This thought isn’t off the mark; two NBER working paper studies found.
The coronavirus has put Latino communities out of work at a worse than the overall U.S. unemployment rate, which jumped to 14.7% since the pandemic, according to “The Impacts of Covid-19 on Minority Unemployment: First Evidence From April 2020 CPS Microdata.”
“[Latinos], with an unemployment rate of 18.2 percent, were disproportionately hard hit by COVID-19,” researchers write. “African-Americans experienced an increase in unemployment to 16.6 percent, less than anticipated based on previous recessions.”
The NBER is predicting pandemic-related unemployment will soon reach 26.5%, higher than the peaks of the Great Depression. They estimate a 31% unemployment rate for blacks and Latinos.
Furthermore, immigrant communities are also facing significant job loss.
Data from another NBER working paper, “The Adverse Effect of the Covid-19 Labor Market Shock on Immigrant Employment,” showed that native-born citizens are better able to find work during this season.
“Historically, immigrant men were more likely to be employed than native men,” the researchers write. “The COVID-related labor market disruptions eliminated the immigrant employment advantage. By April 2020, immigrant men had lower employment rates than native men.”
Statistically, between February and March 2020, the employment rate of immigrant men had a significant decline from 88.6% to 85.3%. Among native-born men, the employment rate had a lesser reduction, from 82.9% to 81.5%.
Why Do These Unemployment Issues Matter?
Latinos and immigrants have been a substantial aspect of the American workforce in the country’s modern history. U.S. Latinos, if they were a country, would have the eighth-largest economy in the world, illustrating Latinos’ role as a powerhouse for the American economy.
Long-term unemployment will significantly impact these families, especially if their basic necessities cannot be met.
Worse, this drop can be linked to these communities’ lack of access to higher education and high-skill jobs, according to the first NBER paper.
“An unfavorable occupational distribution and lower skills contributed to why Latinx experienced much higher unemployment rates than whites,” researchers write. “These findings of early impacts of COVID-19 on unemployment raise important concerns about long-term economic effects for minorities.”
Check out these 19 ways to focus on health equity in the pandemic aftermath.
Also, download a Salud America! Health Equity Report Card. You will get local data with interactive maps and gauges, which can help you visualize health inequities in poverty, housing, transit, and other health equity issues compared to the rest of your state and nation.
You can email your Health Equity Report Card, share it on social media, and use it to make a case for community change to boost health equity.
“We need to make sure that we direct resources to help individuals in our community, regardless of citizenship status, survive this major threat,” he writes. “As is true in the recent past, the U.S. recovery from major devastations—the Great Recession alongside numerous natural catastrophes—has depended very heavily on Latinos. The same will ultimately be true with this one.”