Highlights:

  • Employment levels show steady recovery between April and August after a sharp decline between January and April for Hispanics, African Americans, and Whites.
  • Hispanics and Hispanic women in particular experienced greater job declines between January and April compared to others.
  • White women recovered a greater proportion of the initial employment decline by August compared to others.
  • For all races, current Index values continue to be well below their pre-pandemic levels.

Welch Consulting Employment Index for Race Continues to Rise through August

Introduction

The Welch Index for Race is a data analytics tool used by our labor economists to measure full-time equivalent employment for Hispanics, African Americans, and Whites after adjustment for population growth. An Index value of 100.0 indicates that this adjusted full-time equivalent employment level is the same as what it was in July 2019.

Any decrease (increase) in the Index value over a particular period implies that full-time equivalent employment level has decreased (increased) relative to the growth of the adult population during that period.

For example, over the past 12 months, the Index has fallen 11.5 points for African Americans from 100.2 to 88.7.  In other words, the level of full-time equivalent employment for African Americans has increased at a rate of 11.5% slower than the increase in the U.S. African American adult population over the past year. This decline in the employment level is 5.5 points and 2.4 points greater than the decline that Whites and Hispanics have experienced over the past year, respectively.

For all race groups, the bulk of the last one-year decline has occurred between January and April 2020. This is attributable to the onset of the COVID-19 crisis and related lockdown measures.

Welch Consulting offers data consulting services to help employers analyze and learn from large and complex data.

Employment Levels Decline Sharply Across Race Between January and April; Job Losses Higher Among Hispanic Women

The Welch Consulting Employment Index experienced a sharp decline across racial lines between January and April 2020. In January, the Index was 99.9 for African Americans, 100.7 for Whites, and 102.2 for Hispanics. The Hispanic Index experienced the largest decline relative to the other two races in the first four months of the year.  For Hispanics, the Index dropped 20.1 points between January and April. For African-Americans and Whites, the Index declined by 16.6 points and 14 points, respectively, over the same period.

Welch Consulting Employment Index - RaceFor Hispanic women and African American women, however, the initial decline was not continuous. Both these groups experienced a modest increase in the Index between January and February.

Despite that, Hispanic women experienced a higher decline in the Index compared to others. Their Index declined by 22 points from their highest value since 2016, 101.3 in January, to their lowest value since 2016, 79.3 in April.

Welch Consulting Employment Index - Race and Gender
Employment Levels Recover Steadily Across Race Between April and August; Recovery Rates Higher Among White Women

The Index has shown a steady job growth for all races since April. For all three races, June saw the largest rise in Index value over the previous month.  Between May and June, the Hispanic Index rose by 3.8 points, the White Index rose by 2.8 points, and the African American Index rose by 1.9 points.  This recovery has continued through August but at a lower rate.

In August, the Index rose 3 points for Hispanics, 2.2 points for Whites, and 1.3 points for African Americans.  With this continued rise, Whites, Hispanics, and African Americans have respectively reversed over 53%, 47%, and 32% of the sharp decline the Index experienced between January and April.

White women had a higher reversal rate compared to other groups.  As of August, they also had a higher Index value, while African American men had a lower Index value compared to other groups. White women experienced a decline of 15.7 points between January and April and reversed over 56% of this decline by August. In August, their Index value was 94.7.

For African American men, the index rose 1.8 points from July to August and 6.1 points since April. With this rise, African American men reversed over 36% of the initial 16.8-point decline. As of August, African American men had a lower Index value of 88.5 compared to other groups.

With an increase of 3.6 points since July and 11.9 points since April, Hispanic women reversed over 54% of their drastic decline by August. Contrasting with the current gender pattern for Whites and African Americans, the Hispanic Index for women was lower than that of Hispanic men by 0.8 points in August.

Underlying Factors Behind Employment Index Trends and Concluding Remarks

Broadly, our economic consulting experts find that the sharp January to April reduction in Index values can be attributed to the onset of the COVID-19 crisis and related lockdown measures.

The differential employment impact of the pandemic on racial groups stems from a combination of factors. Among them include the fact that Whites, Hispanics, and African Americans are differently situated across geographies, education, and occupations. For example, service, construction/extraction, and wholesale/retail occupations have been particularly hard-hit. These occupations also have a higher representation of Hispanics and African Americans compared to Whites. More generally, workers who cannot telework have also been susceptible to employment loss. Hispanics and African Americans constitute a larger proportion of such workers compared to Whites.

Recovery across the board since April reflects the reopening of the economy and businesses after the initial lockdown. However, so far, this recovery has not been enough to offset the dramatic declines of the initial four months. Across all three races, the Welch Index values continue to be well below both their pre-COVID-19 levels as well as their levels in January, February, and March of this year.

Technical Note: Full-time equivalent employment equals full-time employment plus one half of part-time employment from the BLS household survey (the Current Population Survey). The data reported for a given month is generally from the calendar week that contains the 12th day of the month. The Welch Index for race is based on individuals who are 20 years old and over. Seasonal effects for the share of workers employed in part-time jobs are removed in a regression framework using monthly indicator variables.

SOURCES:
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
PEW RESEARCH CENTER