UCLA Labor Center

Essential Stories: Black Worker COVID-19 Economic Health Impact Survey


2022 / Déjà Thomas, Demetria M. Murphy, Lola Smallwood-Cuevas, Antonia Izuogu

Essential Stories: Black Worker COVID-19 Economic Health Impact Survey finds that the current economic restructuring triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic is compounding the Black jobs crisis in Southern California. With heightened unemployment, underemployment, and unsafe conditions for a workforce plagued by a long history of systemic racism, researchers find that it will take a decade to address these critical issues if state officials do not intervene sooner.

This report is the first large-scale study of Black workers in Southern California, which is home to 60% of the Black population in the state. The report documents the challenges faced by nearly 2,000 Black workers in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside, and San Diego counties during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Among other findings, the report notes:

  • Close to 70% of Black workers who lost their jobs or were furloughed during the pandemic have not been called back to work. More than half of Black workers surveyed worked in essential or front line sectors pre-pandemic. 
  • As Black workers have navigated overlapping economic and health crises during the pandemic, there has been insufficient systemic support available and accessible to them. 71% of on-site workers were concerned about COVID-19 exposure on the job. A third of workers reported uncertainty that they could afford food in the next month. 
  • 90% percent of Black women surveyed had an increase in at-home and financial responsibilities during the pandemic, and many of their employers were inflexible in accommodating their needs.

In response to the concerns of Black workers surveyed in the report and a subsequent exhaustive research analysis, the report offers the following key recommendations:

  • Long-term quality jobs, economic support, and COVID-19 recovery programming
  • Black worker wellness support through targeted programming
  • Direct workforce rights training and development programming

In order for the current economic restructure to lead to an equitable recovery, researchers emphasize the importance of amplifying the voices of Black workers. These recommendations have been further summarized in the report in context of regional, state, and federal labor policies. 

Related Links

CBS Los Angeles
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Business Insider
Times of San Diego
Black Voice News