US to now release Native American employment data

But until last month, one striking detail remained unreported: Native Americans have seen their unemployment rate soar even higher than any of these groups has a staggering 28.6% in April.

While the monthly employment report regularly details the unemployment rate for Asians, Black, Hispanic and White American, Native American-specific data — classified by the agency as American Indian and Alaska Native — was never included.

Given the relatively small population of American Indians and Alaska Natives in the United States, the sample size of survey respondents meant that the monthly data collected from the survey on the current population from the Department of Labor and the Census Bureau were volatile and not sufficiently reliable, the BLS explained. The data was therefore included in broader annual and semi-annual reports on topics such as race and ethnicity.

“We reviewed the estimates to see if releasing the monthly data would add to AIAN’s understanding of the workforce,” said Patrick Carey, assistant commissioner for the current Employment Analysis Office. at BLS, CNN Business told CNN Business. “Despite the high volatility, we ultimately thought the data was.”

Although data on indigenous populations is still not part of the monthly employment report (because it is unadjusted), having data highlighted and published more frequently online is a win for both visibility and real-world progress, said Gabriel R. Sanchez, co-founder of the Native American Budget and Policy Institute. at the University of New Mexico, where he is also a professor of political science.
In November, Sanchez, who is also a governance studies fellow at the Brookings Institution, co-authored a report on the economic health of Native Americans. This report highlighted the lack of timely employment data and why it was important to start reporting and tracking it in the future.

“Native Americans are largely excluded from the important discussion of economic well-being in the United States – another form of erasure for a group that continually faces marginalization and exclusion in American society,” wrote the authors.

This lack of current data has proven particularly detrimental during the pandemic, which has disproportionately affected minority and indigenous populations, they noted. Without up-to-date data on a key population, government response and assistance will likely suffer, Sanchez told CNN Business in an interview.

“We want data-driven policy decisions, we want everything to be data-driven,” he said. “But until that data is available, it’s impossible.”

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The Brookings report, along with demands from President Joe Biden’s administration, play a role in the agency reconsidering its past approaches, Carey said.

While the BLS releases estimates for Native Americans in its annual report on workforce characteristics by race and ethnicity, there are analytical benefits to releasing the data more frequently, he said.

“You can kind of see clear trends with the monthly data,” Carey said. “You just have to be careful not to know that the data is volatile.”

The BLS released side-by-side comparisons of seasonally adjusted monthly unemployment rates for the total population and Native Americans. dates back nearly 20 years. Taken together, the data show that the unadjusted unemployment rate for Aboriginal populations is consistently higher than the national average, sometimes by a factor of two.

The data also showed the dramatic spike in unemployment and sustained double-digit unemployment rates for Native Americans in the first year of the pandemic.

“It’s disheartening to see the effects of the economic shock in the early parts of the pandemic for indigenous workers,” said Casey Lozar, director of the Center for Indian Country Development at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis and member of the Confederate Salish. and Kootenai. Tribes.

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Native Americans have a higher share of service sector jobs than other populations, which contributes to higher unemployment rates, Lozar said. Additionally, geographic and systemic economic issues – such as lack of childcare infrastructure – play an outsized role. in rural and tribal areas, he said.

In the absence of frequent federal data drops, the CICD has sought to serve as a repository of economic information for the country’s indigenous populations during the pandemic. Using what was available through the BLS and the census, in addition to conducting surveys of tribal leaders and community members, the center launched a labor market scorecard and announced an initiative this year to term and the expansion of the center to collect and analyze new economic data. sets.

Lozar said these efforts and the efforts of the BLS are positive steps toward solving a “data desert.”

“[The data gaps] are serious, and it’s going to take time, and it’s going to take developing very strong relationships with Indian country and with other data partners,” he said.

Nohemi M. Moore