This statement was published in response to the July 2, 2020 release of jobs numbers by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For the most up-to-date data please visit TCF’s comprehensive UI data dashboard here.

The bottom line from this morning’s Labor Department reports on jobs and unemployment is clear: the country remains gripped by dual economic and public health crises, leaving far too many Americans out of work as we enter a period of increased risks due to COVID-19. In June, the unemployment rate dropped to 11.1 percent (or 12 percent, accounting for misclassification errors), which is still higher than at any point during the Great Recession. Moreover, the timing of the survey—early to mid-June, when nearly all states had lifted stay-at-home orders—likely makes the economy appear more rosy than it actually is currently, since many states have had to pause or even reverse their reopening plans. And, while employers added back 4.9 million jobs in the month of June, the economy still faces a yawning hole of 14.6 million jobs lost since the crisis began.

In contrast to the relatively rosy jobs report compiled earlier this month, the Labor Department also reported that 34.3 million workers filed unemployment benefits in the week ending June 26, representing a jaw-dropping 21.5 percent of the workforce, up significantly from 20 percent filing for benefits as of June 13 when the Census Bureau fielded the jobs survey. The number of workers newly filing for benefits has fallen to 2.3 million per week (including 1.4 million state and 840,000 federal), down from a peak of 6.7 million earlier in the crisis. These workers remain in a perilous situation as they rely on the additional $600 per week in federal benefits to the tune of $16 billion per week, all of which will come to a crashing halt in three weeks if Congress fails to act.

The country’s unemployment situation demands that Congress extend aid to jobless Americans. The BLS has admitted for months that it has misclassification errors that understate the unemployment rate, and that a corrected unemployment rate would be anywhere from 1 to 5 percentage points higher. And even that does not include the 8.6 million more Americans who are counted as out of the labor force but who want a job (a number up by 2.9 million compared to last year).

While the unemployment crisis has affected every part of the country, certain groups have been hit the hardest. American’s economy is rife with inequality, and women and people of color disproportionately make up the lowest-paid and least-unionized service jobs that have been decimated due to COVID. For example, the leisure and hospitality sector—despite a gain of 2.1 million jobs in June—has still lost 3.1 million jobs in total since the crisis began, and recent gains are likely to slow due to the surge in new virus infections.

  • Typically in June, millions of young people begin their careers or take summer jobs to gain work experience and pay for their education. However, the number of teens able to find a job this summer dropped by 20.3 percent as compared to last year.\
  • Since April, the white unemployment rate has dropped from 14.2% to 10.1% in June, while the Black unemployment rate has barely budged downward to 15.4% (compared to 16.8 percent in May and 16.7 percent in April).
  • Latino unemployment has risen the fastest among major racial groups, and stands at 14.5 percent in June, nearly 2.5 times the rate before COVID hit.
  • Women have lost 55 percent of all jobs lost since the COVID crisis.

Our most vulnerable workers have the most at stake when it comes to a safe, staged reopening of the economy. A rush to reopen too quickly and without proper protections in place—for example, requirements for face mask wearing and adequate contract tracing—is putting June’s labor market gains in dire jeopardy. Worse, by undermining the continued risks of COVID-19, lawmakers are playing russian roulette with the health of millions of Americans who are at work in risky jobs or wondering if they will be forced off of unemployment and back into a job that puts them in harm’s way. Today’s Labor Department report underscores the importance of action at every level of government, starting with extending unemployment benefits.