As Black jobs see decline this Labor Day, Biden labor secretary says employment market should still be celebrated

U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh tells theGrio that the Black “under” employment rate is the “second highest” followed behind that of Native Americans.

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Labor Day traditionally and historically is meant to celebrate the American worker. As U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh tells theGrio, the recent years of the coronavirus pandemic have demonstrated the value of workers, particularly those deemed “essential” during the height of the U.S. shutdown of 2020 and 2021. 

Labor Secretary Marty Walsh (C) speaks during a news conference marking six months since the signing of the bipartisan infrastructure bill with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan (L) and National Economic Council Director Brian Deese in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on May 16, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

According to a report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research, Black and brown workers overrepresented most occupations within frontline industries.

“People should take a moment to think about the sacrifices that [they] have done for this country to move the workforce forward,” said Walsh. 

As the Biden-Harris administration has touted, the United States has recovered 20 million jobs initially lost during the pandemic. Even as there is a celebration of the nation’s workforce, this Labor Day falls at a time when the nation’s unemployment rate stands at 3.7% – 0.2% higher than the month prior, according to the August jobs report from the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics. 

What’s more, the historically high Black unemployment rate also rose. The August 2022 Black unemployment rate stood at 6.4 %. The recent jobs report shows Black workers were the only group in the demographic breakdown that saw a labor force participation decline. The employment-population ratio for Black Americans also fell.

Walsh confirmed that the Black “under” employment rate is the “second highest” followed behind that of Native Americans. Still, the labor secretary sees a silver lining in the economy.

“You have labor participation involvement up. You have people that want to join the union up. We have almost record numbers of people going back to work since the pandemic began,” he said. “We’re investing in American workers to make sure … that it’s an equitable recovery. And that’s something that, again, we can celebrate on Labor Day.”

A man is seen in front of a large ‘Black Lives Matter’ banner on the side of the AFL-CIO building near the White House in Washington, DC on June 12, 2020. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

The most recent labor reports show non-farm payrolls rose by 315,000 jobs in August, just below the Dow Jones estimate for 318,000. And the unemployment rate was two-tenths of a percentage point higher than expectations. Wages also rose this year, with average hourly earnings up 5.2% from a year ago.

Walsh said he is also expecting robust hiring during the upcoming holiday seasons. Last year, many workers were hired for seasonal jobs and remained, he noted. The labor secretary also pointed out there are a lot of opportunities right now in today’s job market. 

Labor Day also happens to mark the unofficial end of summer. With a new season upon us and excitement within the Biden administration about the latest jobs numbers, Walsh said he’ll be participating in New York’s Labor Day parade. “It is a celebration,” he added.

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