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Black and Hispanic women’s unemployment rose in February, but more workers joined the labor force

BusinessEconomyBlack and Hispanic women's unemployment rose in February, but more workers joined the labor force
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Women pass by a “Now Hiring” sign outside a store on August 16, 2021 in Arlington, Virginia.

Olivier Douliery | AFP | Getty Images

The unemployment rate for black and Hispanic women rose in February, but the number of people looking for jobs rose as well.

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US unemployment rate That rose to 3.6% from 3.4% in February, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday. Women aged 20 and older in the labor force tracked that move, with the unemployment rate rising slightly from 3.1% to 3.2%.

The difference is more pronounced among Black and Hispanic women. The unemployment rate for black women increased from 4.7% to 5.1%. Among Hispanic women, it increased from 4.4% to 4.8%.

Both groups saw their labor force participation rate — a metric that shows how many workers are employed or looking for work — increase.

For black women, it increased from 62.6% to 63%, while the employment-to-population ratio, which reflects the proportion of people employed, increased slightly from 59.7% to 59.8%. For Hispanic women, the labor force participation rate increased slightly from 61.1% to 61.3%, while the employment-population ratio remained unchanged at 58.4%.

That could suggest broader weakness in the labor market, even amid a stronger-than-expected jobs report, according to AFL-CIO chief economist William Spriggs. In February, the US economy added 311,000 payrolls, although the unemployment rate rose and wages rose slightly.

“The Federal Reserve characterized the labor market as, ‘Oh, the labor market’s so tight, employers can’t find anybody,’ but women went out, they looked, and some of them got jobs, but a lot of them didn’t. did,” Spriggs said.

“So obviously there’s a lot more workers than available jobs, And there’s plenty of room left in the labor market to recover,” he said.

Still, Valerie Wilson, director of the Economic Policy Institute’s program on race, ethnicity and the economy, urged against putting too much stock in a one-month report, noting that a rising labor force participation rate shows greater confidence in the labor market.

She attributed the low employment among black women to slow reform in the public sector, which employs a more significant portion of the black workforce in education. Meanwhile, leisure and hospitality continue to recover from losses during the pandemic, boosting employment among Hispanic women.

Wilson pointed to an encouraging finding in this latest payroll report.

“One of the bright points or positive things in this report in terms of women’s employment is that, again, looking at industries that employ a significant number of women,” Wilson said, citing growth in health care. are, we’ve seen an increase in employment in them.” Government, retail, leisure and hospitality sectors.

“So the fact that those industries are still adding jobs suggests to me that there are ongoing additional job opportunities for women, at least as far as the demographics of those industries are concerned.”

—CNBC’s Gabriel Cortes contributed to this report.

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