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Report: People of color in Texas have been disproportionately impacted by pandemic unemployment

Although people who are Black and Hispanic had higher rates of unemployment before the pandemic, the gap has widened even further since March 2020.

AUSTIN, Texas — A new report shows that unemployment in Texas during the pandemic has impacted some groups of people significantly more than others. The numbers released by Workforce Solutions Capital Area show some races are twice as likely to be unemployed.

People who are Black or Hispanic had higher unemployment rates even before the pandemic. But since March 2020, the gaps in unemployment rates have widened even more.

Before the pandemic, the gap between white and Black unemployment was about 2.5 percentage points. But the most recent numbers show that gap just about doubled in Texas, with Black Texans seeing about a five points higher unemployment rate.

Although the Hispanic unemployment rate is a bit lower, that group also saw an increase in unemployment. The Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) unemployment rate is not too far off from the white unemployment rate.

Here are the numbers comparing unemployment rates pre-pandemic (from the fourth quarter of 2019) to the most recent numbers (from the third quarter of 2021):

Q4 2019  

  • All: 3.4%
  • White: 2.6%
  • Black: 5.0%
  • Hispanic: 4.1%
  • Asian: 1.7%

Q3 2021

  • All: 5.9%
  • White: 4.1%
  • Black: 9.2%
  • Hispanic: 7.0%
  • AAPI:5.1%

In Austin, the most recent unemployment numbers still show racial disparities, but also show that, in every group, unemployment rates are lower than the state average:

  • All: 3.8%
  • White: 3.4%
  • Black: 6.0%
  • Hispanic: 4.1%

“It's important to know that there's a lot of work that needs to be done regarding equity in our community to ensure that people of color and those who are lower-income have access to educational opportunities and job opportunities,” said Jameson Cardenas, the senior director of marketing for Workforce Solutions Capital Area. “And that's what Workforce Solutions and our partners want to address.”

Although many higher-paying companies are hiring right in Austin, not everyone is qualified for those jobs. Workforce Solutions Capital Area leaders say it comes down to access to resources and education and, in some areas of Austin, those are not as readily available.

“High-skilled workers in our region's most in-demand sectors have enjoyed a wealth of job opportunities and wage increases, even amid COVID,” Cardenas said. “But, you know, these advantages have not been felt by everyone in our community.”

WATCH: Unemployment numbers decreasing in Central Texas, but employers still in need of workers 

The new report shows that of the people who filed for unemployment since March 2020 in Travis County, 69% have less than an associate’s degree. Those people are disproportionately Black or Hispanic.

Workforce Solutions offers many trainings and certification programs that can help people land those higher-paying and sustainable jobs. They focus on the fields of I.T., skilled trades, health care and advanced manufacturing. Most trainings are offered at no cost, and Workforce Solutions even helps with child care and transportation.

“It’s important to know that for those in our community with barriers to getting additional education or pursuing training, a certification – not a four-year degree, it could be a two-year degree or a short-term certification – sometimes that is what is needed to unlock a high-demand job and to enter into an in-demand field and see your wages increase over time,” Cardenas. “Our adult participants from our training programs, they saw their wages increase an average of $15,000 a year and the at-risk youth that finished the training program, they saw their wages increase about $6,700 on average a year.”

The Hire Local Plan, which is a part of the Community Workforce Plan by Workforce Solutions, has a goal of helping individuals living in poverty or those how are considered low-income to find a path to financial stability.

To learn more about the resources offered by Workforce Solutions Capital Area, click here


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