The outrage driving protesters into America’s streets runs many layers deep. At the top is the death of George Floyd and the horrible persistence of police brutality. The latest jobs report reflects another: the disproportional damage that the coronavirus pandemic is inflicting on people of color.
Although overall employment rebounded a bit, as the slow reopening of the economy allowed some businesses to bring workers back, the damage remains severe. As of May, about 52.8% of people aged 16 and older were employed, up a bit from April but still down from 61.1% in February, while the number of people reported as “absent” from work, as opposed to unemployed, suggests the drop has actually been larger.
For black people, the situation was even worse: Just 49.6% were employed in May, down from 59.4% in February — a decline of 3.2 million jobs. (Latinos experienced outsized losses, too.) Over the same period, white employment fell about 8 percentage points, to 53.4% from 61.3%.