Women walk past a “Now Hiring” sign outside a store on August 16, 2021 in Arlington, Virginia.
Olivier Douliery | AFP | Getty Images
The unemployment rate for black and Hispanic women rose in February, but so did the number of job seekers.
The US unemployment rate rose to 3.6% in February from 3.4% the previous month, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics said on Friday. Women aged 20 and over in the workforce followed this trend, with the unemployment rate rising slightly from 3.1% to 3.2%.
The difference is more noticeable in black and Hispanic women. Black female unemployment rose from 4.7% to 5.1%. For Hispanic women, it increased from 4.4% to 4.8%.
Both groups saw an increase in their activity rate, a metric that shows how many workers are employed or looking for work.
For black women, it rose from 62.6% to 63%, while employment ratio, which shows the proportion of those in the labor force, ticked slightly higher, from 59.7% to 59.8%. For Hispanic women, the labor force participation rate increased slightly from 61.1% to 61.3%, while employment remained flat at 58.4%.
That could indicate broader weakness in the jobs market, even amid a stronger-than-expected jobs report, according to AFL-CIO chief economist William Spriggs. In February, the US economy added 311,000 jobs, even as the unemployment rate rose and wages rose slightly.
“The Federal Reserve has characterized the job market as, ‘Oh, the job market is so tight, employers can’t find anyone,’ but women went out, they searched, and some of them got jobs, but a lot of them didn’t,” Spriggs said.
“Obviously there is a lot more work force than available jobs. And there is still a lot of room to recover in the labor market,” he added.
However, Valerie Wilson, director of the Economic Policy Institute’s program on race, ethnicity and economics, urged not to stuff too much content into a monthly report, noting that the rising labor force participation rate shows more confidence in the job market.
She attributed lower employment among black women to a slower recovery in the public sector, which employs a larger proportion of black workers in education. Meanwhile, leisure and hospitality continue to recover from losses during the pandemic, boosting employment among Hispanic women.
Wilson pointed to an optimistic finding in this latest payroll report.
“One of the bright spots or positive things in this report in terms of women’s employment is that, again, when we look at industries that employ significant numbers of women, we’ve seen an increase in employment in those industries,” Wilson said and referred to increases in healthcare. Government, Retail, Leisure and Hospitality.
“The fact that jobs are still being created in these industries suggests to me that there are still additional employment opportunities for women, at least as far as the demographics of these industries are concerned,” she said.
– CNBC’s Gabriel Cortes contributed to this report.