Academic Literature

COVID and US Labor Markets in 2020 – Blacks and Hispanics have had slower employment recoveries than whites, even accounting for differences in education and occupation

It is no secret that in the spring of 2020 the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted U.S. labor markets more severely and more quickly than at any point in living memory. A blizzard of research papers, newspaper stories, and calls for economic relief have documented the severe crash in employment in the spring of 2020, and the disproportionate burden borne by workers in leisure and accommodation, workers of color, and workers unable to do their jobs remotely. Far less is known, however, about how employment trajectories have played out for diferent groups over the rest of 2020, as a nascent recovery frist gathered steam and then stalled, and how these patterns varied across states that differed in the timing and severity of their outbreaks and economic restrictions.


  • COVID-19 decimated the U.S. labor market in the spring of 2020; a partial recovery in the summer and early fall left historically marginalized and economically disadvantaged groups largely behind, more than in any previous recession.
  • The aggregate recovery stagnated at the end of the year, masking that while higher-paid workers continued to see small gains, lower-paid workers experienced renewed small losses.
  • Blacks and Hispanics have had slower employment recoveries than whites, even accounting for differences in education and occupation.
  • States hit harder by COVID earlier on continue to lag behind in their employment recovery.
    n While state economic restrictions depress employment temporarily, the effect quickly fades once they’re relaxed, but higher mortality rates persistently reduce employment for months.
  • An equitable recovery will need accelerated vaccination efforts, greater economic relief to the unemployed, and reinvigorated training for workers needing new jobs.

Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story @ “COVID-19’s Impacts on the Labor Market in 2020” by Brad J. Hershbein and Harry J. Holzer


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