Asian American Women See the Highest Jobless Rates in the U.S., Data Reveals

jobless rates
Asian woman with eyes closed wearing protective face mask commuting in the city and waiting for subway in platform

Asian Americans recorded the highest jobless rates among U.S. women in the last six months of 2020, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show.

The country lost a net total of 140,000 jobs in December, the first month of job loss since employment opportunities resumed last May.

Shockingly, all those lost jobs belonged to women — that’s 156,000 occupations gone compared to a 16,000 gain for men, according to the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC).

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Asian American women aged 16 and above were apparently hit hardest, having a share of unemployed workers at 44% for at least six months.

Meanwhile, Black and Latina women aged 16 and above had unemployment shares of 40.8% and 38.3%, respectively.

Asian Americans of the same age limit also fared worse than all U.S. women, whose average unemployment share came at 38.6%.

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“We don’t know if we’ll be able to survive this,” Christie Nguyen, co-owner of Studio 18 Nail Bar in Orange County, California told NBC News. “It’s really taken a huge emotional toll.”

All seven manicurists at Nguyen’s salon have been laid off. But the negative impact of COVID-19 extends across the service sector: many Asian American women work in restaurants, hospitality, retail and leisure, according to economist Diane Lim.

The abysmal jobless rate can be traced to a trend that has affected all Asian Americans since the onset of COVID-19.

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From February to June 2020, the group’s unemployment rates surged by more than 450%. And while overall unemployment dropped in May 2020, it increased by 0.5 percentage points for Asian Americans, according to a McKinsey report.

By August 2020, Asian Americans had a jobless rate of 10.7% — far exceeding that of white Americans at 7.3%.

“It’s especially notable because among Asian Americans, the average unemployment rate was the lowest before the pandemic,” Karthick Ramakrishnan, founder and director of AAPI Data, told the Fast Company. For instance, Asian Americans had a jobless rate of 2.5% in December 2019, while the U.S. rate was at 3.5%.

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In the last three months of 2020, a staggering 46.1% of Asian Americans had been jobless for at least 27 weeks. This share is bigger than those of white, Black or Latinx Americans, Bloomberg noted.

Still, Emily Martin, vice president for education and workplace justice at NWLC, was “shocked” to see women losing 100% of the jobs in December.

“We know that those long-term spells of unemployment make it hard to find another job and it also means that when you do find another job, your wages are likely to be lower,” Martin told CNBC. “So the fact that women are getting hit so hard in this recession really threatens to widen the gender wage gap going forward.”

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To help all women get back on their feet, Martin recommends a more robust COVID-19 relief package, which would include state and local funding, paid family leave, paid sick leave, and bailout for child care for working mothers.

Feature Image via Getty

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