Inequality in The Employment Situation

On the first Friday of each month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) publishes “The Employment Situation.” The headline number from the report is always the nationwide unemployment rate, defined as the share of people who either have a job or want to find a job but cannot (i.e., it excludes those who are not looking for work). But, from the report, one can also get a sense of some of the issues of inequality that will come up in this blog. For example, Table A-2 of the report summarizes the unemployment rate by gender and race as BLS defines them. The figure below charts these data, and shows that even in an economy as strong as 2019’s, black and African American workers, and especially men, still struggle. Indeed, the unemployment rate for black and African American men is twice that of white men.

Note: Includes only individuals age 20 and over. Data are seasonally adjusted. Data come from the Bureau of Labor Statistic’s Employment
Situation Summary, Table A-2.

A number of reasons exist for this inequality — discrimination and differences in education being two — but, for now, just know that it exists and it exists even when times are good. Because in the end, inequality in employment is just the tip of the iceberg — inequality in wages for workers is every bit as extreme. And spillovers between employment and income can reach far afield areas that may seem less “economicky,” like marriage.

But those are all topics for another day — if you want to read the raw version of the BLS report (unfiltered by the press…or me), it’s here:

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