The current recession has had a disproportionate impact on lower-wage jobs and the workers who hold them. Because workers of color and women are overrepresented in the nation’s lower-wage economy, this recession has the potential to impact some groups of workers more severely than others.

Focusing on Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware, this new research explores recent changes in employment by residents’ education, race, ethnicity, and gender. Overall, the employment rate — or the share of working-age residents employed — fell by roughly 8 percentage points between May 2019–October 2019 and the same period in 2020, from 76.5 percent to 68.4 percent. Employment rate declines approached or exceeded 20 percentage points for three groups of workers with no more than a high school diploma: Black men, Black women, and Hispanic women. White men, regardless of their educational attainment, experienced much more modest declines, as did both Hispanic men and White women with at least some college education. The underlying drivers of these uneven outcomes, including the potential roles played by occupational segregation, labor market discrimination, and access to affordable, high-quality childcare, should be explored in order to ensure the economic recovery is not only full but also equitable.

This report is the latest in our Equity in Recovery series, which looks at the workers, small businesses, and places most affected by economic disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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