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Unemployment from the pandemic has more consequences for minorities, experts say

Posted April 26, 2020 2:52 p.m. EDT
Updated April 26, 2020 6:28 p.m. EDT

With millions of people out of work, countless businesses are experiencing financial uncertainty. Research reveals this uncertainty is even more acute for minorities.

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that minority groups are more likely to work in low-wage jobs, which are vulnerable to layoffs during the coronavirus pandemic.

NC unemployment office promises 800 more people answering phones by the end of the week

Henry McKoy, the director of entrepreneurship at North Carolina Central University School of Business, understands that most of the financial struggles in minority communities existed long before we knew about the coronavirus.

"There's already economic conditions in the communities of color that create challenges even before the pandemic," McKoy said. "So, essentially what the coronavirus crisis has done is exacerbated those particular issues."

One reason minorities are more vulnerable to the economic consequences of COVID-19 is because of the industries where they typically work, according to McKoy.

A report from the Bureau in March found that unemployment rose nationally by 4 percent for Whites, 6.7 percent for Blacks, 4.1 percent for Asians and 6 percent for Hispanics -- and those numbers have only risen in April.

"Communities of color tend to be in jobs that pay low wages, lower health benefits and things of that nature, and certainly those are the jobs being highly affected in this current situation: tourism, restaurants, travel," McKoy said.

Federal funding will be crucial in the long term to turn things around, McKoy said. But right now, there are three things families can do to help pay the bills:

  • Consider spring cleaning to see what you may be able to sell online.
  • Check for new jobs. McKoy says many new call center positions are becoming available.
  • Negotiate with your creditors on payment. This could help in making ends meet.

"We're all one nation," McKoy said. "We're all one world. But, we certainly have to understand that different parts of the community are impacted in different ways."

New unemployment claims in NC

On March 18, the N.C. Division of Employment Security began sporadically releasing details on the number of cumulative unemployment claims filed since March 16, most of them triggered by layoffs related to the novel coronavirus. See how those numbers compare to cumulative new claims filed during a similar time period in 2019 and the 2009 recession, acccording to data from the U.S. Department of Labor, through July 6, 2020, the last date WRAL collected the data.

Source: N.C. DES, U.S. Department of Labor
Graphic: Tyler Dukes, WRAL

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