What new data reveals about unemployment and race : The Indicator from Planet Money How well a family can endure a spell of unemployment depends on how much of a buffer it has to fall back on. And there are big racial and ethnic disparities in how big those buffers are.
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Unemployment And The Racial Divide

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Unemployment And The Racial Divide

Unemployment And The Racial Divide

Unemployment And The Racial Divide

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OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images
A man wearing a face mask walks past a sign "Now Hiring" in front of a store amid the coronavirus pandemic on May 14, 2020 in Arlington, Virginia. - Another 3 million people filed initial unemployment claims last week on a seasonally adjusted basis, according to the Department of Labor. (Photo by Olivier DOULIERY / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)
OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images

Today is Jobs Friday. This morning the Bureau of Labor Statistics released the jobs report for the month of May. And after having lost almost 21 million jobs in April, the economy gained back 2.5 million jobs in May.

So the economy is at least gaining jobs instead of losing them. But we are not blowing the traditional celebratory air horns because, frankly, even though the report is a genuinely nice surprise, the labor market is still in terrible shape. The overall unemployment rate fell a bit to 13.3 percent in May, but after April that is still the second highest unemployment rate for any month since the Great Depression.

Plus, so many massive changes have been happening to the economy, so quickly, that the numbers might just be bouncing around a lot from month to month. We just have to be cautious about reading all the data until a more consistent trend emerges.

But one thing that has been consistent in the report: The same labor-market inequalities that existed before the pandemic still clearly exist now. For example, the unemployment rate for white workers is 12.4 percent. That is really high, but it's not nearly as high as the unemployment rate for black workers, which is 16.8 percent. Or Hispanic workers, which is 17.6 percent.

Today on the show, we are going deeper on those disparities to try to better understand how this terrible labor market is affecting families differently. Because how an individual worker or a family makes it through unemployment depends on how much of a buffer they can fall back on. And a big, extraordinary new data set reveals that there are stark differences in those buffers between families of different racial and ethnic backgrounds.

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