Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell on Monday gave a sneak peak at new data that clearly shows how “those least able to bear the burden” of the pandemic were hit the hardest.
Twenty percent of adults without college degrees suffered layoffs last year versus 12% for college-educated workers, Powell said, citing data from a new report on household economics to be published later this month.
More than 20% of Black and Hispanic “prime age” adults were laid off compared to 14% of similar white workers over the same period, he said, in a speech to the National Community Reinvestment Coalition.
Some 67% of Asian- and Black-owned small businesses and 63% of Hispanic-owned firms had to reduce operations compared with 54% for their white counterparts, Powell said.
While 22% of parents were not working or working less because of the pandemic, that figure was much higher for Black and Hispanic mothers — with more than 30% affected in each category.
And labor force productivity declined around 4 percentage points for Black and Hispanic women compared to 1.6 percentage points for white women and 2 percentage points for men overall.
“The Fed is focused on these long-standing disparities because they weigh on the productive capacity for our economy,” Powell said.
“We will only reach our full potential when everyone can contribute to, and share in, the benefits of prosperity,” he said.
On the big economic picture, the Fed chairman did not say much, but he sounded a bit more optimistic about the outlook than at his regular press conference last week.
” We are not out of the woods yet, but I am glad to say that we are now making real progress,” Powell said.
The U.S. economic outlook “has clearly brightened,” he added.
“Vaccination levels are rising. Fiscal and monetary policy are providing strong support. The economy is reopening, bringing stronger economic activity and job creation,” he said.
Last week, Powell said it was not time for the Fed to start discussing tapping the brakes on policies supporting the economy, even with signs of progress in the outlook.
Two other Fed officials Monday said it is not yet time to talk taper.
And on CNBC, Richmond Fed President Thomas Barkin said the labor market has only made modest progress recovering from the pandemic.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average
finished up more than 200 points as investors were also more optimistic about the outlook.