Action News Data: Philadelphia-area unemployment numbers show gaps between certain races

ByNydia Han and Heather Grubola WPVI logo
Wednesday, August 12, 2020
Local unemployment numbers shows gaps based on race
Local unemployment numbers shows gaps based on race, according to 6abc's data journalism team.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- There are some signs of slow improvement in the unemployment rate, but not for certain communities of color.

According to 6abc data journalism team, Black people currently have the highest unemployment rate at 14.6%.

While the national numbers show small gaps between certain races, local experts say the true picture for the Philadelphia region is much wider and Black men are facing the biggest challenges.

Donald Brooks, of West Philadelphia, had a job and then COVID-19 hit.

"I got employed like right before the pandemic in February, and I got laid off shortly after," he said.

And when 6abc crunched National Labor Department numbers, we found Blacks and Asians are struggling to get their jobs back most.

Their unemployment rates improved only by 2.2% and 3% respectively, compared to 5% and 6% for whites and Hispanics.

Broken down by gender, unemployment numbers for Black men fell only .9%. For white males, it dropped 4.1% over the last four months.

Dawn Thomas, of Philadelphia Works, said the local picture is even starker.

"At the local level that disparity is much, much wider," she said.

Thomas said one of the reasons is Black men work in some of the hardest-hit industries.

"Your retail, your service, industry, your facilities jobs. You know your restaurant jobs they were working in there they're not really in construction, and you know corporate America," she said.

But Thomas said there is hope.

"We understand the struggles of Black and brown people, especially men to regain employment of foothold in our economic fabric," she said.

She said work is being done to level the playing field.

"Really create more knowledge of those family-sustaining wage jobs that maybe those populations, didn't consider or weren't interested in," she said.

"I found the work by continuing to continue on the hustle, continuing to call people up," Brooks said.

He now has a job in construction.

"Keep your head up to just continue to hustle continue to keep working continue to work harder than everybody around you," he said.

Brooks attributes his success to an apprenticeship program offered through the Urban Affairs Coalition funded by Philadelphia Works. He said networking and being exposed to different types of trades made the difference.