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Coronavirus pandemic job losses falling hardest on people who were already hurting

Updated: Jul 29


Where previous recessions killed jobs across many industries and demographic groups, layoffs in the COVID-19 era often have been concentrated among workers who were often behind economically before the pandemic. Among them, working moms, younger workers, and workers who are less educated, lower-paid, and non-white.


In King County, Wash., where Black residents account for around 6% of the total population, Black workers make up around 11% of recent layoffs. That’s according to a new report by Washington STEM, a Seattle-based nonprofit that has analyzed weekly, or “continuing,” claims for jobless benefits filed by unemployed workers during the pandemic.


By contrast, white residents, who make up 63% of the county’s population, have accounted for just 48% of pandemic-related unemployment, Washington STEM found.


One factor: Pandemic-related layoffs struck earliest and hardest in sectors where Black workers were already over-represented. That includes food service and lodging, as well as in personal service, such as hair salons, and gig work, says Andrea Caupain, CEO of Byrd Barr Place, a Seattle-based nonprofit that works with low-income families. “Low-wage workers in those industries were the first to go,” Caupain says.


The pandemic’s economic disparities also show up in other demographic categories. King County residents 34 or younger, who account for roughly 37% of the population, based on statewide figures, make up almost 42% of continuing jobless claims in King County and statewide.


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