Latinx Unemployment Is Way Down (Yay!), But Racial & Ethnic Disparities Persist (Damnit.)

Some good economic news for Latinxs: the unemployment rate for Latinx workers is now at its pre-Great Recession levels. That only took the better part of a decade to recover and reach the point where we are *supposed* to be. The breakdowns show a particular disparity in gender: Latinx women are more likely to work in "social assistance, education, health care and accommodation and food services" which have seen growth since the Recession, while Latinx men are more likely to work in "information, construction and manufacturing" which have lost jobs over the same time. 

But the broader context matters, because there remains a disparity in the unemployment rate from white  to Latinx to Black workers. Latinx unemployment (4.7%) is higher than white unemployment (3.9%); Black unemployment (7.7%) is even higher than Latinx unemployment, often twice the rate of white unemployment. This is important to this discussion because of the reasons involved. 

The Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis says that this disparity between white, Latinx, and Black unemployment has several factors, and none of them is educational attainment. Yes, educational attainment among Black folks is lowest across the entire population. But even among college educated workers, the Black unemployment rate remains highest. Why? Historic legacy of racist housing policy for one. Black workers are far more likely to live in high-poverty neighborhoods; Latinx workers are more likely to live in ethnic neighborhoods with commonalities in national origin. And this means access and proximity to jobs and opportunities is lowest. 

Another possible reason is that Black workers are more likely to be looking for work. That is, if you are jobless but not looking, you don't count as unemployed. So with more Black folks looking and jobless, the unemployment rate appears higher, when it really means that Black workers are just not giving up. 

But there's another reason few people want to point to: the simple fact that employment discrimination exists, and even if they are qualified, educated, get an interview, Black workers are simply scrutinized more broadly because of their skin color. As NPR reported, Black workers are found in higher rates in government jobs "in part because of the strong anti-discrimination laws" in these jobs. 

The reasons for disparities are multiple, and contextualizing the story is crucial when talking about these issues. And to be honest, it is so easy to start talking in racist tropes and stereotypes, and we're here to combat those, not perpetuate them.