Labor Rights

The Economic Recovery Isn’t Reaching Black Women in the Workforce

The economic recovery isn’t making a difference for African American women this year, according to data analysis from the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC).

via Shutterstock
via Shutterstock

Based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the NWLC found that the overall unemployment rate dropped 1.1 percentage points in the period between August 2013 and August 2014. Every demographic group experienced a drop in unemployment except African American women, whose rate of unemployment remained unchanged at 10.6 percent, putting them on par with African American males.

Overall, males saw greater employment gains in the past year than women did, with a 1.3 percent drop in unemployment compared to a half-percentage point drop for all female workers. African American and Hispanic males saw the greatest declines in unemployment, despite experiencing the greatest unemployment. Single mothers saw a 1.7 percent drop in unemployment in the last 12 months, but rates were on the rise again in August 2014.

The same is true for African American women’s unemployment as of August 2014. Last month, African American women saw the greatest rise in unemployment, with adult Hispanic women following closely behind.

NWLC found that educational attainment didn’t make a difference for black women when comparing outcomes across college educated adults across demographics. Speaking to the Huffington Post, Joan Entmacher, Vice President for Family Economic Security at the NWLC, said African American women are overwhelmingly represented in the public sector where budget cuts have hit hardest. “Public sector jobs are slower to recover because public policy has been to cut or freeze funding for all levels of government over the past few years,” Entmacher said. “After the recovery began, there was an emphasis on reducing the deficit and shrinking the government at a time when that was really damaging to the economy.”

On average, Black women head the majority of Black households with children, and constitute most of the Black workforce. The NWLC said Black women disproportionately suffered from the first years of the economic downturn, despite making up little more than a tenth of the US workforce.

Media Resources: National Women’s Law Center 9/5/14, 8/3/11; US Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics 9/5/14; Huffington Post 9/5/14