United States discussed on The Takeaway

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April alone more than twenty million people filed for unemployment in the United States as a staggeringly high number the US now has an unemployment rate of fourteen point seven percent and to put that in perspective we have not seen anything that high since the times of the Great Depression and even then the rate took a year and a half to get very high here it happened within a month that's lane Windham she's the associate director of the cow manifests initiative for labor and the working poor at Georgetown University the workers who are affected the most are of course those were working in hospitality and service jobs and there's something else striking about who's hit the hardest so it's no surprise to economists who've seen this trend again and again we know that people of color and women are the most likely to have lost their jobs the unemployment is is hitting women and people of color even harder I spoke with lean to discuss the significance of these numbers along with Erin Ross Coleman and ida B. wells fellow at the tight media institute covering race and economics we know for instance that women and people of color earn less money and have less wealth and what that means when they hit a time of unemployment and when they hit hard times they have simply left to fall back on so you know the fact that women only make eighty two cents on the dollar to what men earn black women earn just sixty two cents for every dollar earned by men that means that at times of unemployment when they lose their jobs that they just are going to be harder hit Erin can you say more about how these unemployment numbers break down across racial lines so when you disaggregated it's it's even worse picture Hispanic unemployment at eighteen percent black unemployment at sixteen percent of white and Asian unemployment bos at fourteen and you already are starting to see some of the desperate kind of breakdowns that have happened in past recessions in a previous the Great Recession it was some really desperate national anthem is in our present and in a black and son was at sixteen percent and then going back to the Great Depression you see similar kind of really big gaps with twenty four percent nationally and fifty percent for black people so there's the old saying that when America gets a cold on black Americans get the flu and it's like now we all have contractors so needs a pretty tough lane what about the gender gap did unemployment shake out in a similar way in two thousand eight in two thousand and eight we saw that job losses were more heavily born by men are often and the construction industry for instance this time around it's different women are losing their jobs at a faster rate the unemployment rate among women right now is fifteen point five percent compared to thirteen percent among men that's a big gender gap and we we saw a gender gap although it wasn't as large and two thousand and eight but it was reversed so in this time because of the nature of the kinds of jobs that are being lost that tend to be more female dominated women are absolutely shoulder pain a lot of the burden and this round Erin we also saw a very long recovery process take place since two thousand eight and for many people that recovery was only being felt recently how do you perceive it will be for us to bounce back to recovery from this year I think a lot of that depends on the public policy response and you know what policy makers decide to do to intervene but right now it's tough and there are a lot of obstacles ahead for a lot of families for a lot of workers particularly black and brown workers you know unemployment was just starting to dip down into the low single digits you know that was a talking point that trump was very proud of the lowest black unemployment on record and that's because you saw a recovery where you know more people are starting to join the labor force employers are becoming less discriminatory and you know who they would hire just based off of race and skill and stuff like that so you earlier last year the end of last year twenty nineteen we're just getting to those really good kind of unemployment numbers where people are being able to participate and now here we are at the worst recession since the Great Depression lane right now there's a lot of talk about essential workers and I'm sitting in New York and here of many of those essential workers are black and brown people what might a recession look like for essential workers across the country one in three jobs held by women are considered essential so a recovery for essential workers could mean that they have the jobs they have work but will that work be healthy will it be safe will it be jobs that they can can go to with confidence and I'd say right now many of those workers are reporting to work and are really risking the safety of for themselves and for their families and I think that you know we have a long way to go before those essential workers who we depend on those cashiers those nurses those EMT workers are are fully protected and and are fully safe you know I'm thinking about unions and labor organizing lane have we seen a difference between how unionized workers and non unionized workers fared during past recessions I'm I'm curious how labor organizing can possibly help black and brown people and women specifically so there absolutely is a union difference in terms of wages you know I mentioned before there's a gender wage gap there's a race wage gap unions clothes that and so you know a worker who has a union makes more money than those who don't women and people of color are even more likely to do better than their non union counterparts into Guineans absolutely raise wages increase benefits and frankly give workers more say at a time when they really need it at the workplace you know you saw that I think for instance and some of the unionized grocery stores those were the first ones to have the plexiglass up to be it making sure that that there was safety of fort for their work force you know what we're seeing across the country is that there's lots more interest in unions lots of workers have been striking just since the beginning of March there have been over a hundred and fifty wild cat strikes these are strikes that are not necessarily called by the union they are up from the grass roots when people feel that their safety is not being respected and so there are there have been a number of strikes across the country and I think there's also just been a renewed interest in general and the idea of organizing and unions do we know if there any organizations or at the local or state level or even local or state level governments that are really bracing for what these unemployment numbers mean is anyone truly be prepared for this I don't think so I mean recessions are something that like state local officials really depend on the federal government for support just because they often times don't have the budgets that allow for kind of deficit spending in order to offset you know like cuts to that budget or just you know large scale stimulus so it it really often my experience just speaking at condiments and politicians it's something that they they definitely relying on the federal government to help them get through I see something of this size and scope I would just add to that that in this country it is very clear right now that the way that we do our social safety net is particularly poorly put together to deal with this kind of a massive pandemic a huge crisis you know workers healthcare comes through their employers up to forty three million people may lose their health care and this crisis in addition our unemployment is bifurcated goes through the states it doesn't go through the federal level at one our system and so you know we are particularly poorly suited to dealing with this level of a crisis in the absence of those kinds of social safety nets like you said lane what are some solutions that we can look to to sort of soften the blow of this economic crisis I think that in the immediate term the federal government has to step up there needs to be more stimulus we absolutely need that cushion in this country and then I think that our leaders need to follow where the people are right now which is that the people are demanding a more robust social safety net people fully understand at this point why are employer provided health care system is not working why keep will need paid sick leave why even we I need paid child care I think it's very obvious to people and well I think over the next several years that we may see leaders stepping up and beginning to make some really fundamental changes in policy in this country what have we learned from the past regarding the impact of recessions and rising unemployment numbers on elections but how can we.

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