Washington, D.C. — Center for American Progress Economist Michael Madowitz released the following statement today on the January 2021 employment situation figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:
Today’s data underscore that 10 months into the COVID-19 crisis, the economy is still fragile. The numbers also show that Americans who have historically faced some of the worst discrimination in the labor market—women and people of color, especially women of color—are not yet part of the recovery. The unemployment rate for Latinas is 8.8 percent, and the unemployment rate for Black women is 8.5 percent—both substantially higher than the overall unemployment rate. These employment rates are likely artificially depressed by the 2 million women who have been driven from the labor force amid the collapse of our country’s fragile web of caregiving.
This morning’s data also show the damage the Trump administration and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) have wrought by stonewalling Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D) efforts to pass a substantial economic relief bill last summer. While the 11th-hour package passed in late December was an important step forward, preventing a humanitarian crisis and keeping the economy from spiraling further into free fall, President Joe Biden is inheriting an economy in dire and worsening shape that will take time to turn around. Even with nearly 10 million jobs lost over the past year, unemployment benefits are set to expire in 37 days. The country urgently needs substantial, not transient, economic relief.
In 2017, then-President Donald Trump and a Republican Congress inherited an economy approaching full employment and used budget reconciliation to pass a $1.9 trillion tax bill that overwhelmingly benefited the wealthy. In contrast, President Biden has inherited a historic economic and public health crisis. His $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan is far more urgent and, importantly, targeted to support working Americans.
The risks of doing too little are far greater than the risks of doing too much, as economists of all stripes have been saying for months. A sustainable economic recovery will rely on ending the public health crisis through widespread vaccination, providing struggling businesses and state and local governments with the aid they need to retain their workers, and ensuring that individuals who have lost their jobs have sufficient unemployment insurance and food and rental assistance to stay afloat. Without such aid, the country cannot build the economy we need to survive the duration of this pandemic and move toward recovery. The time to lay the foundation to put millions of people back to work is now. Congress has no time to waste in passing President Biden’s $1.9 trillion rescue plan.
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