Unemployment Reportedly Fell To 11.1% In June — But There’s More To The Story

Whizy Kim
Mandatory Credit: Photo by LM Otero/AP/Shutterstock (10594772g) Amid social distancing during the Covid-19 outbreak, a cashier wears a mask while working behind a clear barrier between her and a customer at El Rancho grocery store in Dallas Virus Outbreak Texas, Dallas, United States – 26 Mar 2020
Mandatory Credit: Photo by LM Otero/AP/Shutterstock (10594772g) Amid social distancing during the Covid-19 outbreak, a cashier wears a mask while working behind a clear barrier between her and a customer at El Rancho grocery store in Dallas Virus Outbreak Texas, Dallas, United States – 26 Mar 2020

Every Thursday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes a weekly report on unemployment — and since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, we’ve been nervously awaiting its release every week, watching as the number of unemployed Americans continued to rise. But today’s report has caused more of a stir than usual, because it finally seems to give us some good news: the overall unemployment rate has dropped to 11.1% in June, compared to 13.3% in May.

But the reality is, this simple statistic fails to tell the whole story of joblessness in America right now. Heidi Shierholz, Director of Policy at the Economic Policy Institute, thoroughly put the report in context in a Twitter thread this morning. “The official unemployment rate was 11.1% in June, a welcome improvement from the last two months — but aside from April and May, it’s still higher than any unemployment rate we’ve seen since the Great Depression,” she wrote.

She also pointed out that the data doesn’t yet reflect the enormous spikes in COVID-19 cases that we’ve seen recently in states like California, Florida, and Texas. “We are already hearing reports of people being laid off for the second time,” she explains. It’s unclear how much of the 4.8 million jobs added in June will be long-lasting, because over 2 million of those jobs were added to the leisure and hospitality industries.

There’s also a problem of misclassifying workers. The BLS doesn’t count furloughed workers in its official unemployment rate — those workers are listed as “employed but not at work,” according to the EPI. In May, that meant that the actual unemployment rate was closer to 16.4%, and not 13.3% as the BLS’ official count suggests. Shierholz noted that in June, on top of the misclassified furloughed workers, “There were also 5.0 million who were out of work as a result of the virus but were being counted as having dropped out of the labor force.” She continued, “If all these workers were taken into account, the unemployment rate would have been 15.0% in June.”

And this doesn’t even begin to take into account the huge variance in unemployment by gender and race. The nation has been having a powerful, ongoing conversation about racism since the George Floyd protests began in late May — yet by simply touting the new unemployment rate as 11.1%, we’re continuing to irresponsibly flatten how crises impact Black Americans and other people of color. A single number can’t represent the realities of everyone in this country. Though overall unemployment appears to have fallen in June, the unemployment rate for Black men is higher than it’s ever been since the start of the pandemic, now sitting at 16.3%. 

We’ve also known for a while that women are facing more joblessness due to COVID-19 than men, largely due to occupational segregation, but separating by race reveals an even more gruesome picture. According to the EPI, in May the percentage of all women out of work due to COVID-19 was 21.8%, compared to 17.3% for men. But for Black women, it was 25.4%; for non-white Latinx women, it was 29.6%; for Asian women, it was 26.7%.

In comparison, the unemployment rate for white men was 14.1% — less than half the rate it was for non-white Latinx women.

The EPI also estimates that 11% of those unemployed in May didn’t have a reasonable expectation of returning to their old jobs. “The survey the unemployment data are from asks unemployed workers who lost a job if they expect to return to work,” the report says. “Of the 21.0 million officially unemployed in May, 15.3 million expect to be called back to their old job, which means 5.6 million of the officially unemployed do not expect to be recalled to a former job.” It also estimates that many furloughed workers who said they expect to to return to their jobs may not actually do so. Other studies have suggested that around 30% of jobs lost in some industries may never return, instead being reallocated to other sectors.

All of these important details are lost when we focus only on the unemployment rate released by the BLS every week. Non-white workers in particular are suffering from joblessness, yet Congress has yet to pass additional economic relief measures to help these Americans survive. With the possibility of many jobs being lost again as states with surging cases reclose businesses, combined with the fact that the $600 given by Pandemic Unemployment Assistance will end soon, it’s hard to have a positive outlook on the economy as we enter July.

Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?

Should You File For Unemployment?

Many Jobs Lost During Coronavirus May Never Return

More Women Have Lost Their Jobs To Coronavirus

More From

  • Your Horoscope This Week

    Our energy may feel erratic on Monday, when messenger Mercury forms a square against innovative Uranus. Our ideas and words can get tangled as the planets of communication and unexpected changes clash against each other. On the bright side, we’ll feel extra creative. While we’ll have to be intentional about considering our thoughts before sharing them with others, we can also use this transit to think outside of the box.  On Tuesday at 12:44 p.m. EST, the Moon wanes into her 3rd quarter in Taurus. This transit can cause us to rush others — and ourselves. One way to tap into patience is to focus on listening to the emotions that come up during this transit; this will let us move forward with purpose. Power struggles may arise on Thursday, when warrior Mars creates a square against controlling Pluto. The confrontation between these planets can influence us to challenge authority figures or, conversely, we may feel challenged by others. It may feel unnatural, but we’ll find a happy medium during this movement by playing by the rules and avoiding burning bridges.  Starting Saturday, disruptive Uranus stations retrograde in Taurus, encouraging us to shift our focus towards creating internal change. We may feel frustrated with our progress, but if we focus on solidifying our values as the planet moves in reverse, we’ll be ready to put our best foot forward when Uranus stations direct again in Taurus early next year.Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?

  • These Tiny Desks Are WFH Space Saviors

    Having a designated home office requires space — which is exactly what our living setups don't have. But, before we nix the idea completely and continue to work from our beds, let's consider a craftier solution: the small-space desk — a furniture piece so clever and compact it will transform your WFH fantasies to realities. (Cue "Work From Home" by Fifth Harmony.)  There are desks designed to wedge into empty corners, multipurpose desks that fold up when not in use, floating wall-mounted desks, desks made for standing, desks made for converting into dual-purpose dining tables...You get the picture. We hunted down a range of stylish and functional at-home workspaces built to fit inside an array of cramped nooks and crannies. Don’t let square footage restrict you from creating a home office, scroll on and discover the small-space-style desks that will secure you a setup fit for a boss. At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?PSA: Kelly Clarkson Just Launched A Home LineHow To Organize Your Pantry1 Useful Items That Will Help Your Food Stay Fresh

  • Found: The Most Comfortable (& Stylish) Sandals To Hoof Around In

    Despite the fact that we’re traveling much less this summer, it's still managed to feel like we’re walking more than ever. And, all of this bipedalism means that we are in dire need of some serious workhorse sandals to follow suit. No more strapping on those questionably supportive gladiators or flimsy flip-flops and Ubering our ways around town. Now that we're using our own two feet to hoof it to a host of local destinations, our footwear will need to support us (literally) every step of the way. We learned long ago that just because a shoe falls under the umbrella of “comfort” doesn’t mean it can’t be fashionable, too. With utility and style overlapping now more than ever, there are a plethora of choices this season that will enhance your walkabout without subtracting a single style point. Whether it's an unexpectedly cool cork slide, a recycled-rubber sandal adorned with dancing bears, or a leopard-print clog cousin, we’ve got you covered with summer-ready sandals that are both chic and sublimely comfy ahead. At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. All product details reflect the price and availability at the time of publication. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?Comfort Footwear Shoes That Are Actually CuteAll The Sales On Summer Sandals Happening NowBye Birkenstocks: Meet The New "Ugly" Sandal

  • Demi Lovato Just Revealed The Name Of Her New Song — With A Manicure

    Just a few short weeks after Demi Lovato announced her engagement to Max Ehrich, the star has more big news: She’s about to drop new music. According to Lovato’s most recent Instagram Story, the “Anyone” singer is working on a brand-new song — the title of which she announced via manicure, showing off a squared deep French shape studded with multi-colored butterfly nail art.“Guys, I’m writing a new song called butterfly rn,” Lovato captioned a closeup shot of her butterfly nail art shared to her Instagram Story. Following the low-key announcement, fans were quick to track down more details, only to discover that this isn’t the first time Lovato has used the winged insects to inspire song lyrics.“The first song @ddlovato wrote as a child was about butterflies,” one fan account posted. Lovato herself cosigned the report, reposting the fan account and adding, “And today I’m writing a new one about just one.” If you can’t recall a past Demi Lovato single about butterflies, that’s because it was written when the singer was just seven years old, and was never actually produced. In a 2013 TV interview on Katie Couric, Lovato revealed that the first song she ever wrote as a child was about a crush and that quintessential butterflies-in-your-stomach feeling — she even sang a few cords for the audience.As of now, all we know about the new track is that its subject is a single butterfly — and that Lovato is wearing symbolic nail art to match. We’re keeping a lookout for more breadcrumb clues ahead of the release. Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?The Mismatched Manicure Trend Just Got An UpgradeMeghan Markle's Bridal Mani-Pedi Broke TraditionCharli & Dixie D'Amelio Launch Nail Polish Collab