UCLA Labor Center
Black workers in a variety of fields. According to a new study, Black workers have been harder hit by the pandemic. Photo credit: bls.gov

Black workers have struggled to recover from the upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, with many who were displaced from jobs still not returning to work, according to a new report.

Key findings of “Essential Stories: Black Worker COVID-19 Economic Health Impact Survey” include:

  • Close to 70% of Black workers who lost their jobs or were furloughed during the pandemic have not been called back to work.
  • More than half of the 2,000 Black workers surveyed worked in essential or frontline sectors pre-pandemic.
  • Researchers found that 71% of Black on-site workers were concerned about COVID-19 exposure on the job, and
  • About 90% percent of Black women surveyed had an increase in at-home and financial responsibilities during the pandemic. Many reported that their employers were inflexible in accommodating their needs.

The study, released Monday by the UCLA Labor Center, was conducted by the UCLA Center for the Advancement of Racial Equity at Work, aka CARE at Work. The research focused on the Black workforce in Southern California, which is home to 60% of the Black population in the state.

“The Black workers we surveyed are facing high levels of stress,” author Demetria Murphy said in a statement. “Eighty percent of Black workers rated their stress level as three or more on a scale of one to five. And what is even more concerning is that most Black women rated their stress level at a four or five.”

The researchers said inadequate care infrastructure – both in the workplace and within the local, state and federal arenas – has created a “state of emergency” for Black workers.

“Disproportionate health, economic and housing discrimination have converged into a restructuring that will cause further unemployment and underemployment for Black workers, unless California’s recovery plans specifically address their needs,” CARE at Work Director Lola Smallwood-Cuevas said.

She added that it took 13 years after the Great Recession for Black unemployment to return to pre-recession levels.

“To have a prompt and meaningful economic recovery this time, Black workers need relief, resources and programming tailored to their needs,” she said.

In response to the concerns of Black workers surveyed in the report and a subsequent analysis, the researchers called for:

  • Long-term quality jobs, economic support and COVID-19 recovery programming.
  • Black worker wellness support through targeted programming, and
  • Workforce rights training and development programming.

In order for the current economic restructure to lead to an equitable recovery, the researchers also said there is a need to amplify the voices of Black workers.