ICYMI: COVID-19 Leads to Massive Job Loss in Black Community Largely Due to Systemic Racism

Virginia—Black workers in Virginia are being laid off or furloughed disproportionately in Virginia due to COVID-19. Because of gaps in education, discrimination in hiring, racist zoning, and many other factors based in systemic racism and white supremacy, Black people are over-represented in jobs that have been hit the hardest by the pandemic. 

“It’s already more difficult for Black people in our community to get ahead because of systemic racism and white supremacy. Now Black people are being disproportionately impacted by the economic crisis and mass unemployment brought on by COVID-19,” Anna Scholl, Executive Director of Progress Virginia, said. “During the special session, legislators must take action to address not only the current economic crisis by expanding unemployment benefits and providing other safety net support to people who are struggling right now. But beyond that, we need to address the gaps in education, discrimination in hiring, and other racist systems that have led to this problem in the first place. If we don’t work to dismantle white supremacy now, Black and Brown members of our community will be left further and further behind.” 

Job loss effects of pandemic hammer Black workers [The Roanoke Times, Jeff Sturgeon]

“Jobless claims by Black workers have exceeded those by white workers since late June, even though Black people make up only about a fifth of the state’s workforce.”

“According to economists and statistics, Black workers are overrepresented in industries slowed by the pandemic such as restaurants, motels and hotels, retail and health care. Meanwhile, they hold disproportionately fewer jobs in the still-stable industries that offer remote work, such as accounting, legal services and programming.”

“The week of July 5 brought another 15,242 preliminary claims from Black workers compared to 12,336 by white workers and 4,715 from other people who were nonwhite or whose race was unknown, according to statewide results from the VEC.”

“Laura Goren, its research director, said recent trends resemble what happened during the Great Recession. In Virginia, ‘Black workers lost jobs at a very high rate and it took a long time for the unemployment rate to come down for Black workers to normal levels,” she said. “Much the same is happening now.’ Goren attributed the occupational skew to issues including longstanding disparities in education. ‘We still have relatively high levels of segregation in our cities and our counties, and Black Virginians are more likely to live in lower-income neighborhoods and attend schools that have fewer resources and are less likely to offer advanced coursework,’ she said.”

“Black people in the U.S. account for 12.7% of all workers but just 7.4% of workers in occupations that can be done from home. Hispanics and Latinos account for 17.3% of all workers but 9% within the remote job category.”