Who Is Unemployed

Friday’s release of the February employment report by BLS showed that the economy created 379,000 jobs in February, compared with 166,000 jobs in January. While these numbers suggest some improvement, they compare unfavorably with the fact that new claims for unemployment for the week of February 20 alone totaled 736,000. Setting aside potential problems with the current data series on new unemployment claims (see, for example, David Kotok, “Unemployment Claims: Fact, Fiction, or Fraud”, Cumberland Advisors Market Commentary, 3/4/2021), weekly changes in the data can arguably provide important insights as to the current state of the labor market. Fortunately, the CES data on Thursday also provide some key information on unemployment for workers in various industries and demographic groups. We will look first at who is unemployed and then at what industries these people are working in compared with where the jobs are being created.

Overall, there were about 10,486,000 people 16 years and older who were unemployed in February 2021 (CES Table A-1), compared with 6,218,000 for the same month in 2020, before the pandemic really hit. Of these, there were 5,809,000 unemployed men and 4,587,000 unemployed women. In terms of demographics, the next table shows that the pandemic has impacted unemployment rates for African Americans and Hispanics significantly more than for white Americans or Asians, although unemployment rates among all groups are much higher now than before the COVID virus hit the economy.

(Click on image to enlarge)

LS.gov Chart 01

In terms of the number of people impacted, there were 7,312,000 unemployed white Americans, 2,052,000 unemployed black or African Americans, 2,619,000 unemployed Hispanic or Latino Americans, and 532,000 unemployed Asian Americans as of February 2021. These data exclude the consideration that there were another 6,902,000 people classified as not being in the labor force but currently wanting a job, so there were about 17,388,000 people in total who were unemployed and/or wanting a job if it were available. In other words, despite the fact that the economy created 379,000 jobs in February, there is a long way to go before pre-pandemic employment levels are reached.

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Disclaimer: The preceding was provided by Cumberland Advisors, Home Office: One Sarasota Tower, 2 N. Tamiami Trail, Suite 303, Sarasota, FL 34236; New Jersey Office: 614 Landis Ave, Vineland, NJ ...

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