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Asian American Unemployment Spikes Amid Pandemic

Young Asian American men and women, who typically show low unemployment numbers, are experiencing some of the worst rates of unemployment during the pandemic.

Staggering stat: Since the pandemic began, unemployment among young Asian American workers — those between the ages of 16 and 24 — has jumped around 300%, according to data compiled by USAFacts as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

  • The current unemployment rate among young Asian women is 22.1% and 20.3% among men. Compare that with February’s numbers, which were 5.6% and 5.5%, respectively.
  • The only group with worse rates than young Asians is young Black Americans, with 25.6% unemployment for women and 23.7% for men.

For young Asian workers, “it’s a perfect storm of a lot of factors,” says Marlene Kim, an economist at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

  • Geography: Asian Americans are concentrated in some of the hardest-hit parts of the country, such as California and Hawaii.
  • Industry: Although Asians Americans are overrepresented in some of the sectors that have shed the fewest jobs during the pandemic, like tech and health care, they are also overrepresented in the sectors that have seen the most upheaval, like travel, service and hospitality.
    • Jobs disproportionately held by young Asians that have been hurt by the pandemic include taxi drivers, nail technicians, travel agents and restaurant workers, Kim tells Axios.
    • And Asian Americans have been at the center of the pandemic’s annihilation of small businesses, as they own 26% of restaurants and 17% of retail stores, per McKinsey.
  • Racial bias: Early on, Asian-owned businesses were also hit by pandemic-era racism and xenophobia. “You heard stories that people were not going to Chinatowns anymore,” Kim says.


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