Washington, D.C. — Center for American Progress Economist Michael Madowitz released the following statement today on the February 2021 employment situation figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:
February’s strong employment report only underscores how far the economy is from achieving a full recovery. It would take more than 2 years of job growth like this month’s impressive 378,000 number to catch up with where we were a year ago. The employment rate for workers ages 25 to 54 is near Great Recession lows. It represents 4.8 million fewer people employed in this age group alone than were working before the pandemic. Long-term unemployment continues to rise. Almost 40 percent of unemployed workers are experiencing long-term unemployment. Many people have dropped out of the workforce entirely. In the immediate term, turning the economy around requires a significant rescue package that will help families, workers, and small businesses stay afloat. In the medium term, a robust recovery stimulus package and accelerated vaccination program give us a chance to build a durable economic recovery. Ultimately, achieving the sustained pace of job growth required to put Americans back to work in the next two years requires nothing less.
Today’s data underscore that the country is still suffering from the chaotic and uncertain leadership it experienced throughout 2020. Additionally, the top-line numbers do not sufficiently reflect the very different labor markets that different demographic groups are facing. Groups that have long experienced systematic discrimination in the labor market are suffering disproportionately in this economy. Latinos accounted for 23 percent of initial job losses at the onset of the pandemic despite making up only 16 percent of the working-age population. The unemployment rate for Black workers rose 0.7 points in a month, where it fell for all other groups. Women’s labor force participation has been stuck at 1980s levels for nearly a year now. Meanwhile, state and local governments have laid off more workers in the last year than in any year on record.
We must get shots in arms as quickly as possible to truly turn the economy around. And while the Biden administration’s announcement that there will be enough vaccines for all adults by the end of May is a hugely positive step, people and the U.S. economy overall need relief now, even with this key advance. Expanded unemployment benefits are set to run out a week from Sunday. There is no time to waste.
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