How fast is the economy recovering?

For nearly a year, the economy has stuck to the long, exhausting slogan of a post-pandemic “normality.” And it’s not over yet.

This page, which we plan to update every month, will tell us how far we still have to go before the economy returns to where it was before the pandemic shut down much of life in America.

Of course, we have made significant progress: after highest unemployment rate the country has experienced since the Great Depression in April 2020, the unemployment rate has steadily declined.

But as of this month, the unemployment rate is still 1.3 percentage points higher than before the pandemic.

Change in seasonally adjusted unemployment rate compared to January 2020

Unemployment rate in September wash 4.8 percent, according to the latest employment report, way down from 5.2 percentage in August.

It is important to note that the recovery does not affect all workers equally. Just like the black and Hispanic communities fought with higher rates of infection and death since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, communities of color continue to take the brunt high unemployment and economic insecurityeven when the overall numbers are falling.

Permanent gap

Change since January 2020 in seasonally adjusted unemployment rate by race

The employment gap between black and white Americans continues to persist. Before the pandemic, things were also not very good. black unemployment freezes often at levels much higher than that of white Americans. The pandemic has exacerbated these stubborn inequalities, and we are now in the midst of a deeply unequal economic crisis. Low-wage workers, who are more likely to be Black and Hispanic, have been hardest hit by the pandemic because they tend to work in sectors such as retail and hospitality where their work cannot be done from home. These jobs pose a significant public health risk amid the pandemic, and have undergone a complete or partial shutdown like infections ebb and flow.

As a result, we are much closer to a normal economic life in sectors such as construction, professional and business services than in sectors such as leisure and hospitality.

Long way to zero

Change from January 2020 in seasonally adjusted non-farm payrolls added or cut in six major private sectors.

Non-farm payroll data are based on the original release by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and do not reflect subsequent changes.

Some sectors managed to be configured (more or less) to the realities of the pandemic, but others, such as leisure and hospitality, education and healthcare, have placed their workers in a painful stalemate. They face precarious employment, layoffs or permanent layoffs always on the horizon, plus the unenviable prospect of going to work every day with the risk of infection looming over their heads.

These differences are important to keep in mind because even when employment seems to be approaching pre-pandemic norms, many people are not participating in this economic recovery and those workers are still disproportionately high. young as well as low salary.

Check back next month to find out how close—or far—we are to the pre-pandemic unemployment rate.