WASHINGTON: As vaccines help quell Covid-19 cases, millions of Americans have gone back to work - but fewer Black and Hispanic workers are being rehired, entrenching persistent inequalities in the United States.
The divides are fueled by long-running employment discrimination, experts say, worsened by unique, virus-related disruptions that have left many jobseekers unable to find work they can get to, or feel safe doing, report agencies.
After skyrocketing to 14.7 per cent in April 2020 when business restrictions to stop the virus from spreading were at their tightest, the US unemployment rate dropped to 5.9 per cent in June, according to the Labor Department.
But the gains were not shared equally: the jobless rate for Black workers was 9.2 per cent and for Hispanics 7.4 per cent, compared with 5.2 per cent for whites.
The racial and ethnic employment gaps in the world’s largest economy were present even when unemployment was at record lows before the pandemic.
In Washington, the issue is receiving renewed attention from President Joe Biden, who has put forth massive spending plans he says will help reshape the economy and make it more inclusive.
And the Federal Reserve has pledged to keep interest rates low for longer to increase hiring of racial minorities - something that took nearly a decade following the 2008 global financial crisis.
The Labor Department is due to release the latest employment report on Friday, which some economists expect will show the economy gaining over one million jobs in July, lowering the unemployment rate to 5.6 per cent as more businesses reopen.
The June data showed unemployment for white women was five per cent, despite losing jobs last year at about the same rate as Black workers, who have seen much slower rehiring. The trend is similar for Hispanics.
“There is a fixed disparity between Blacks and whites in terms of being rehired,” Mr Spriggs said.
A higher share of Black women are looking for jobs than white women, but large and small companies nationwide nonetheless complain they cannot find people fill open positions, especially skilled workers.
“These employers are all yelling we can’t find workers, we can’t find workers. Black women are more available and yet they’re not hiring them,” Mr Spriggs said.
“It’s discrimination. Until we get serious about discrimination in hiring and discrimination in labour force, we just can’t advance.”