In this brief, authors Rogelio Sáenz, Corey Sparks, and Asiya Validova report that in April 2020, after the first two months of significant spread of COVID-19 in the United States, nearly 25 million fewer people had a job. In June 2021, there were still 5.9 million fewer people employed, representing a drop of 3.7 percent in workers since before COVID. Workers of color, women, and those with lower levels of education have consistently had the highest unemployment rates, a trend that persisted through June 2021.

The recovery of the workforce has not been equal, with dramatic differences based on race/ethnicity, gender, nativity, and level of education. During COVID, working from home has been a highly segregated opportunity, limited mostly to persons with college degrees. White workers are approximately 1.5 times more likely to be able to work from home than are Blacks and Latinos.

While the employment situation has improved noticeably since the economic abyss of the shutdown of the economy in April 2020, the United States is still a long way from job recovery.

The authors’ findings have important policy implications for the short- and long-term as, and after, the pandemic recedes. Many people are still without employment due to the loss of jobs that have not yet returned, the obligations they have for child care and elder care, and other situations. Many are on the verge of losing their homes as eviction bans expire. Many families continue to face hunger. There is a major need for the creation of policy to ensure that people have their basic necessities met and that they are able to make necessary adjustments, including job retraining, to begin the process of rebuilding their lives in the coming months and years.


Carsey School of Public Policy

Publication Date

Summer 9-15-2021


National Issue Brief #156


Durham, N.H. : Carsey School of Public Policy, University of New Hampshire

Document Type



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