The unemployment rate for black and Hispanic women rose in February

Women walk past a Now Hiring sign outside a store on August 16, 2021 in Arlington, Virginia.

Olivier Douliry | AFP | Getty Images

The unemployment rate for black and Hispanic women rose in February, but so did the number of people looking for work.

The US unemployment rate rose to 3.6% in February from 3.4% in the previous month, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday. Women age 20 and older in the labor force followed this movement, with the unemployment rate increasing slightly from 3.1% to 3.2%.

The disparity between black and Hispanic women is even more pronounced. The unemployment rate for black women rose from 4.7% to 5.1%. Among Hispanic women, it rose from 4.4% to 4.8%.

Both groups saw their labor force participation rate — a measure of how many workers are working or looking for work — increase.

For black women, it rose from 62.6% to 63%, and the employment-to-population ratio, which reflects the share of those employed, rose slightly from 59.7% to 59.8%. For Hispanic women, the labor force participation rate increased slightly from 61.1% to 61.3%, while the employment-to-population ratio remained unchanged at 58.4%.

AFL-CIO Chief Economist William Spriggs said that could reflect weakness in the labor market even in the face of a stronger-than-expected jobs report. The U.S. economy added 311,000 payrolls in February, although the unemployment rate rose and wages rose modestly.

“The Federal Reserve described the job market as, ‘Oh, the job market is so tight, employers can’t find anybody,’ but women went out, they looked, and some of them got jobs, but most of them didn’t,” Spriggs said.

“Thus, it is clear that there are far more workers than available jobs. And the labor market has a lot of room for recovery,” he added.

However, Valerie Wilson, director of the Economic Policy Institute’s Program on Race, Ethnicity and the Economy, cautioned against putting too much stock in the monthly report, noting that rising labor force participation rates reflect confidence in the labor market.

He attributed the low rate of employment among black women to the slow recovery in the public sector, which employs a significant proportion of black workers in education. Meanwhile, leisure and hospitality continue to recover from pandemic spending, boosting employment for Spanish women.

Wilson focused on good results in this latest payroll report.

“One of the bright spots, or positive things, in this report on women’s employment is, again, if we look at industries that have a significant number of women working, we’ve seen employment increase in those,” Wilson said, citing growth in health care, government, retail, recreation. and hospitality sectors.

“So the fact that these industries are still adding jobs tells me that there are additional employment opportunities for women, at least relative to the demographics of these industries,” she said.

– CNBC’s Gabriel Cortez contributed to this report.

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