PolicyLink analysis spotlights the compounding racial inequities of Covid-19 and automation as barriers to economic recovery and prosperity for all Americans
Oakland, CA – Today, the National Equity Atlas partnership between PolicyLink and the USC Equity Research Institute, Burning Glass Technologies, the National Fund for Workforce Solutions, and JPMorgan Chase released Race and the Work of the Future: Advancing Workforce Equity in the United States, a comprehensive analysis of long-standing racial gaps in labor market outcomes, the economic impacts of Covid-19, and the racial equity implications of automation.
The toll of the Covid-19 pandemic continues to deepen pre-existing racial inequities in the labor market, and while trends are showing that demand is returning for some jobs, they are not ones that can sustain American families. Today, people of color make up about 38 percent of the US workforce ages 25-64, and nearly half of the population under 25. This new report challenges employers, educators, and policymakers to take a comprehensive approach that centers racial equity and quality jobs for all as the foundation of a prosperous future.
“If we want the 110 million workers in the US who are not in good jobs to fully participate and prosper in our economy, we must dismantle the systemic racism that is embedded in so many parts of it,” said Michael McAfee, president and CEO of PolicyLink. “Job quality needs to be at the center of our efforts, to make sure that the recovery from this pandemic is one that is felt by all Americans and that all workers are paid well, treated fairly, and resilient in the face of economic changes.”
Key findings include the following:
- Workers of color face a significant good jobs gap. Overall, White workers are 50 percent more likely than workers of color to hold good jobs. Controlling for educational attainment, 1.6 million workers of color would need job upgrades to close these racial gaps.
- Higher educational attainment is critical but insufficient to eliminate workforce inequities. Higher education significantly narrows racial gaps in labor force participation and employment, but does not equalize income. Median wages are higher for White workers with a high school diploma and no college ($19/hour) than for Black workers with an associate’s degree ($18/hour).
- The early rebound in labor market demand is leaving workers of color behind. Black workers, in particular, have not recovered from the early spike in unemployment as quickly as other workers, despite the fact that demand for the occupations they held before the crisis has returned more quickly than demand for other jobs.
- Automation is accelerating in the wake of the pandemic, and it disproportionately places people of color and immigrants at risk of being dislocated from their jobs. Latinx workers face 28 percent greater automation risk than White workers, and Native American and Black workers face 21 and 18 percent more risk, respectively.
Racial inequity is a drag on economic growth. In 2018 alone, the US economy could have been $2.3 trillion stronger if there had been no racial gaps in wages or employment for working-age people. Without a change in course, the cost of exclusion will grow as the workforce becomes more diverse.
“As our nation grows rapidly more diverse, we must address the root causes of racial inequities in the workforce,” said Manuel Pastor, Director of USC’s Equity Research Institute. “Skills development is critically important, but we can’t train our way out of structural racism. We cannot build a just and fair economy for working people without also tackling the challenges of disinvestment in Black and Brown communities, racial discrimination in hiring, and labor standards designed to disadvantage people of color.”
Funded by JPMorgan Chase, this analysis will help inform the firm’s philanthropic decisions – in the face of a shifting labor landscape – as part of their New Skills at Work initiative to prepare people for the future of work and the firm’s new $30 billion commitment to advance racial equity and drive an inclusive economic recovery.
“Systemic racial inequities across our country have kept too many people – especially in Black and Latinx communities – from accessing quality jobs and career pathways,” said Jennie Sparandara, Head of Workforce Initiatives, JPMorgan Chase. “At JPMorgan Chase, we’re focused on making data-driven investments that support better outcomes and more inclusive talent pipelines for workers and businesses alike, particularly in underserved communities.”
Expanding access to quality jobs will require uprooting racial inequities in access to affordable childcare, affordable homes close to jobs, and reliable transportation that are crucial to job access and success. It will also require sustained commitment and action from employers to eliminate discrimination and transform corporate practices and workplace culture to ensure career ladders for workers of color.
“Real, sustainable change can and will happen when employers prioritize job quality and racial equity as a strategy to attract, recruit, and retain workers and support their pipeline,” said Amanda Cage, president and CEO of the National Fund for Workforce Solutions. “We know from working with employers across the country that a good jobs strategy, combined with proven racial equity and inclusion practices, creates competitive advantage, supports innovation, and delivers positive business outcomes.”
“The pandemic is speeding up change in the workplace. For the millions who were already behind, keeping up will be a tremendous challenge. But it’s also an opportunity to look ahead,” said Matt Sigelman, CEO of Burning Glass Technologies. “By focusing on the jobs that will drive recovery, we can build the training pipelines to help diverse talent build the skills that unlock those careers. That would make this time an inflection point for increasing equity across communities.”
Read the full report including analysis and solutions here.
The National Equity Atlas partnership betweenPolicyLink and the USC Equity Research Institute equips movement leaders and policymakers with actionable data and strategies to advance racial equity and shared prosperity. We maintain the National Equity Atlas: America’s most detailed report card on racial and economic equity. Learn more at www.nationalequityatlas.org.
Burning Glass Technologies delivers job market analytics that empower employers, workers, and educators to make data-driven decisions. The company’s artificial intelligence technology analyzes hundreds of millions of job postings and real-life career transitions to provide insight into labor market patterns. This real-time strategic intelligence offers crucial insights, such as which jobs are most in demand, the specific skills employers need, and the career directions that offer the highest potential for workers. For more information, visit burning-glass.com.
The National Fund for Workforce Solutions invests in a dynamic national network of 30+ communities taking a demand-driven, evidence-based approach to workforce development. At the local level, the National Fund’s partner organizations contribute resources, test ideas, collect data, and improve public policies and business practices that help all workers succeed and employers have the talent they need to compete. Learn more at www.NationalFund.org.
JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM) is a leading global financial services firm with assets of $3.2 trillion and operations worldwide. The Firm is a leader in investment banking, financial services for consumers and small businesses, commercial banking, financial transaction processing, and asset management. A component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, JPMorgan Chase & Co. serves millions of customers in the United States and many of the world’s most prominent corporate, institutional and government clients under its J.P. Morgan and Chase brands. Information about JPMorgan Chase & Co. is available at www.jpmorganchase.com.