How Have Racial and Ethnic Earnings Gaps Changed after COVID-19?
Racial and ethnic earnings disparities have been salient features of the U.S. economy for decades. Between the pandemic-driven recession in 2020 and the rising inflation since 2021, workers’ real and nominal earnings have seen rapid change. To get a sense of how recent economic conditions have affected earnings disparities, we examine real and nominal weekly earnings trends for Asian, Black, Hispanic, and white workers. We find that average real weekly earnings have been declining in the past year, but less so for Black and Hispanic workers than for white and Asian workers. Black and Hispanic workers have also experienced small increases in real earnings since the pre-pandemic period.
Women’s Labor Force Participation Was Rising to Record Highs—Until the Pandemic Hit
Women’s labor force participation grew precipitously in the latter half of the 20th century, but by around the year 2000, that progress had stalled. In fact, the labor force participation rate for prime-age women (those aged 25 to 54) fell four percentage points between 2000 and 2015, breaking a decades-long trend. However, as the labor market gained traction in the aftermath of the Great Recession, more women were drawn into the labor force. In less than five years, between 2015 and early 2020, women’s labor force participation had recovered nearly all of the ground lost over the prior fifteen years. Then the pandemic hit, erasing these gains. In recent months, as the economy has begun to heal, women’s labor force participation has increased again, but there is much ground to be made up, especially for Black and Hispanic women. A strong labor market with rising wages, as was the case in the years leading up to the pandemic, will be instrumental in bringing more women back into the labor force.