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WASHINGTON, June 2, 2020 — Even as the pandemic-induced loss of more than 40 million jobs between mid-March and late May has dealt a devastating blow across the United States, its effects have been most pronounced on certain demographic groups. Those experiencing the highest unemployment rates: Immigrant women and, regardless whether they were born in or outside the United States, Latinos and workers with less than a high school degree or under age 25.
A new Migration Policy Institute data analysis of unemployment by nativity, gender, race/ethnicity, age, education and industry of employment finds Latina immigrants had the highest jobless rate of all racial and ethnic groups in April: 22 percent. Just 38 percent of working-age Latina immigrants were employed in April when the unemployment rate is considered alongside the labor force participation rate. Overall, immigrant women of every major racial/ethnic group—with the exception of those who are black—had higher unemployment rates than men, regardless of their educational level.
With the U.S. unemployment rate nearly hitting 15 percent at last official tally in April, joblessness has been especially high among young workers: 30 percent for those who are foreign born, and 27 percent for the U.S. born. The news has also been grim for workers without a high school degree, immigrant and U.S. born alike, with unemployment exceeding 20 percent. By comparison, 10 percent of immigrants with a four-year college degree were unemployed, just above the 8 percent rate for their U.S.-born peers.
Overall, Latinos experienced the highest unemployment rates by race/ethnicity in April, at 18 percent and 19 percent for the U.S. born and foreign born respectively, outpacing black, Asian American and Pacific Islander and white workers. (Check out this interactive data tool to examine changing unemployment rates, pre-pandemic and now, by industry, race and ethnicity, and educational attainment and to compare different groups by nativity and gender.)
The fact sheet, COVID-19 and Unemployment: Assessing the Early Fallout for Immigrants and Other U.S. Workers, contrasts the current labor market dislocations with the last recession, in 2008-09. Then, as now, immigrants have been among the hardest hit early on because of their relative youth and lower levels of formal education. However, the MPI analysis finds a more significant reason for the current disproportionate impact on immigrants: Their concentration in service industries such as retail trade and leisure and hospitality.
Comparing monthly U.S. Census Bureau data from January (before the coronavirus chilled the labor market) and April, MPI finds unemployment in April within almost every industry was nearly as high among U.S.-born workers as immigrants. This was particularly true in the hardest-hit industries of leisure and hospitality (38 percent for natives versus 39 percent for immigrants); personal and other services (21 percent versus 26 percent); and retail trade (18 percent versus 20 percent). But immigrant workers were more heavily concentrated than U.S.-born workers in these industries, accounting for the disproportionate impact.
“Whether these high levels of joblessness and employment gaps by race, ethnicity, nativity, age and gender continue over the long run is highly uncertain. While it took several years for unemployment rates to return to historic averages after the 2008-09 recession, they did so faster for Latino immigrants than for U.S.-born workers,” write MPI researchers Randy Capps, Jeanne Batalova and Julia Gelatt. “Whether unemployment drops and immigrants can quickly regain parity with natives will depend on the pandemic’s trajectory, changes in state and local social-distancing rules, the job market’s response and the effectiveness of government stimulus policies—all unknowable factors at the present time.”
Read the fact sheet here: www.migrationpolicy.org/research/covid-19-unemployment-immigrants-other-us-workers.
Access the interactive data tool here: www.migrationpolicy.org/programs/migration-data-hub/us-unemployment-trends-during-pandemic.
For all MPI research, data and commentary on the COVID-19 pandemic, visit www.migrationpolicy.org/coronavirus.
The Migration Policy Institute is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank in Washington, D.C. dedicated to analysis of the movement of people worldwide. MPI provides analysis, development and evaluation of migration and refugee policies at the local, national and international levels. For more on MPI, please visit www.migrationpolicy.org