The percentage of Black workers with living-wage jobs has reached an all-time high, according to a May 17 report from the Ludwig Institute for Shared Economic Prosperity (LISEP). But at the same time, more workers may have dropped out of the job market, the report found.
Inflationary pressures, including expenses associated with child care and transportation, may hinder workers, particularly those in low-wage jobs.
“Any time we see numbers trending in a positive direction, we are encouraged things are getting better for low- and middle-income families, but just because the numbers look better doesn’t mean circumstances are improving,” Gene Ludwig, the LISEP chairman, said in a statement.
“It’s important to dig deeper into the numbers to understand the ‘why,’” he added.
LISEP defines functional unemployment as the jobless plus those seeking full-time employment above the poverty line.
Although the overall functional unemployment rate for workers increased from 22.9% to 23.1% in April, the rate reached an all-time low for Black workers, dropping from 25.4% to 24.5%. This is the lowest rate since January 1995, which is the first month in LISEP’s database.
In contrast, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported an overall decrease in the official jobless rate from 3.5% to 3.4%.
“This is a perfect example of why policymakers cannot rely on government headline statistics alone on matters involving the nation’s economic well-being,” Ludwig said. “In spite of official numbers that may show record low unemployment and rising wages, a deeper dive into these data reveals that a large swath of American households are getting squeezed from all sides.”
Taking a closer look at the specifics by sector can be helpful as well. In the technology industry, for instance, it can be more difficult and take longer for Black workers to find jobs, according to a recent report. Promotions, career advancement opportunities, mentorship and training are also offered less frequently to Black workers — or are less likely to be offered to them at all.
In turn, executives and HR leaders can acknowledge these gaps and make an effort to increase employee experience programs, foster mentorship and create employee resource groups. Intentional focus in these areas can better address the Black experience of the great resignation and bolster recruitment practices.