Black women unemployment rates fall but experts say other factors at play

The unemployment rate for Black women dropped significantly last month to five percent.

At first glance, this decline may look like a bright spot, but some economists say these numbers aren’t telling full story.

Like many during the pandemic, Khadija Harris decided it was time for a career change.

“I could tell there wasn’t a lot of opportunity for growth there,” said Harris, who lives right outside of Atlanta.

She went back to school with help from Goodwill of North Georgia and she earned her medical billing and coding certification this July.

Harris said she got the offer for her new job in November.

“I feel like it really paid off for me, especially with Goodwill offering the course for free,” she said.

The latest jobs report shows the unemployment rate for black women dropped from 7% to 5% in November. That was the largest drop when compared to other races and genders.

But experts say there are two sides to this story.

“The thing that we really need to be careful about is making sure that we are sufficiently measuring what that really means,” said Valerie Wilson, Director of the Economic Policy Institute’s Program on Race, Ethnicity, and the Economy.

Wilson works the Economic Policy Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank for economic policy discussions.

She said more black women got jobs last month but thousands who didn’t have jobs also left the labor force too.

“If they were people who at one point were in the labor market looking for work and wanted to work. The fact that they left and are no longer measured in the unemployment rate does not necessarily mean that as a whole, or overall things have improved,” said Wilson.