About Today’s Job Numbers

March 5, 2021

We’re a long way from full employment.

The Roosevelt Rundown is an email series featuring the Roosevelt Institute’s top stories of the week.

Another Reason for $1.9 Trillion

Today’s Bureau of Labor Statistics jobs report bears some unexpected news: The addition of 379,000 jobs in February is the largest monthly gain since October.

But that headline number shouldn’t distract from two key takeaways.

Black people are still suffering disproportionately.

While overall unemployment dipped from 6.3 to 6.2 percent last month, Black unemployment rose from 9.2 to 9.9 percent. As Council of Economic Advisers Chair Cecilia Rouse notes in a blog post, relative to February 2020, Black women’s labor force participation rate has decreased by 4.2 percentage points—more than double the drop for white men. 

We’re well below our employment potential.

The US has lost more jobs since April than during the worst of the Great Recession, Roosevelt Fellow Aaron Sojourner observes. “Adding another 770K jobs would get us to the bottom of the Great Recession. We are 11.8 million jobs below where we would be if the trend leading up to Feb 2020 had continued,” he tweeted today. 

“Job numbers are one major level too low right now. We need it to be well above 500K/month each month, and this is well below,” tweeted Roosevelt Director of Progressive Thought Mike Konczal. “If anything, this [BLS report] should make clear how essential a large secondary spending bill is to recovery.”


Automatic, Recurring Relief

As those racial disparities and labor participation stats demonstrate, relief will still be necessary even as the overall unemployment rate declines. That’s one great reason to make future relief automatic and recurring—and avoid a congressional vote every few months.

“Tying the duration of aid to the strength of the jobs market would give greater certainty to all, while ensuring that Black, Latinx, and Indigenous families in dire need don’t lose support prematurely due to Washington gridlock,” Roosevelt Fellow Darrick Hamilton and David Wilcox write for MarketWatch.

“Linking this support to the combined unemployment rate for Black, Indigenous, and Latinx workers would go even further to boost racial equity, similar to what has been proposed for the Federal Reserve.”


An Ultra-Millionaire Tax

This week, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), and Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-PA) unveiled their Ultra-Millionaire Tax Act, which would levy a 2 percent annual tax on net worth between $50 million and $1 billion, and a 3 percent tax on net worth above $1 billion.

Likely legislative hurdles: arguments over the constitutionality of a wealth tax and concerns that the Supreme Court would strike it down anyway. 

Not to fear, says Roosevelt Fellow Kitty Richards, co-author of “Why a Federal Wealth Tax is Constitutional.”

“Congress should not let extreme, ahistorical interpretations of the constitution stand in the way of progress on one of the defining issues of our time,” she said in a statement. “Now is the time to Build Back Better, and that should include taxing wealth.” Read more.


What We’re Reading

How Medicaid Can Fuel the Care Economy [co-authored by Roosevelt’s Darrick Hamilton]The Hill

Pandemic’s Racial Disparities Persist in Vaccine RolloutNew York Times

A Complicating Factor in Combating COVID Hot Spots: HeatPolitico

House Democrats’ Massive Voting Rights Bill, Explained – Vox

The “Progressive Multiplier”: How Democrats Can Defeat Trumpism [co-authored by Roosevelt’s Deepak Bhargava]The American Prospect

Bridging Black and Women’s History Months: Why “Black Women Best” Can Deliver Liberation for AllMs. Magazine