For almost a year now, the economy has had a long, tiring slug towards post-epidemic “normalcy.” And it’s not over yet.
This page – which we plan to update every month – will tell us how far we still have to go before we can get back to the economy where the epidemic was before it closed much of American life.
We have certainly made significant progress: since the country reached its highest level of unemployment since the Great Depression in April 2020, the unemployment rate has continued to decline.
But as of this month, the unemployment rate is still there 1.3 Percentage points higher than pre-epidemic.
Seasonal consistent unemployment rate changes from January 2020
Unemployment rate in September Was 4.8 Percentage as per latest job report, Down From 5.2 Percentage August.
Importantly, recovery is not affecting all employees equally. While black and Hispanic communities have struggled with high rates of infection and death since the outbreak of the COVID-19 epidemic, caste communities continue to suffer from high unemployment and economic insecurity despite declining overall numbers.
An endless gap
Seasonally adjusted unemployment rates change from January 2020 to nationwide
The gap between the employment of black and white Americans continues to be inflexible. Before the epidemic, things weren’t great either. Black unemployment is often much higher than among white Americans. The epidemic exacerbated that stubborn inequality and we are now in the midst of a deeply unequal economic crisis. Low-wage workers – who may be disproportionately black and Hispanic – have been hardest hit by the epidemic because they typically work in sectors such as retail and hospitality, where their work cannot be done from home. These workplaces pose significant public health risks to epidemics and have been completely or partially shut down due to infection ebb and flow.
As a result, we are much closer to economic normalcy in sectors such as construction and professional and business services than in sectors such as leisure and hospitality.
Long way from zero
Seasonally adjusted non-farm job addition or loss change for six major private sectors from January 2020
The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not consider nonfarm wage data and subsequent revisions based on initial disclosures.
Some sectors have been able to adapt (more or less) to the reality of the epidemic, but others, such as retirement and hospitality and education and health services, have left their workers in a painful no-gen situation. They face unpredictable employment, are always on the horizon with temporary leave or permanent layoffs, but also have the unexpected possibility of going to work every day with the risk of infection hanging over their heads.
These inequalities are important to keep in mind because even when employment seems to be returning to pre-epidemic proportions, many people are not part of that economic return – and those workers may still be people of color, young age and low wages. .
See again next month for an update on how close – or far – the level of unemployment we saw before the epidemic is.