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Updated: June 5, 2020

Job market starts to bounce back -- especially for white and Hispanic Americans

The economy has begun to recover for many people -- particularly for white and Hispanic Americans.

The share of white and Hispanic folks who were employed increased last month, after falling precipitously in April, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Some 53.4% of whites and 52.8% of Hispanics were working last month, an increase of 1.5 percentage points or more for each compared to April.

Unemployment rates for both groups fell last month to 12.4% and 17.6%, respectively, down from 14.2% for whites and 18.9% for Hispanics in April, both record highs.

Employment also increased for black Americans, but it was less robust. For the second month in a row, fewer than half of black Americans were working, with only 49.6% of the population employed, up less than 1 percentage point from April. The last time such a small share were working was in 1983.

[Read more: America's unemployment rate falls to 13.3% as economy posts surprise job gains]

The unemployment rate for black Americans ticked up to 16.8% in May, slightly higher than the 16.7% rate last month. That ties the highest rate during the Great Recession.

The gap between the unemployment rates of white and black Americans had narrowed considerably in April because the job losses triggered by the outbreak affected such a wide swath of workers. Also, a disproportionate share of essential workers are black Americans, according to an analysis by the left-leaning Center for Economic and Policy Research. This is particularly true in the public transit, health care and trucking, warehouse and postal service industries.

Traditionally, the share of unemployed blacks is twice or more that of whites, except during the Great Recession, when the gap was smaller.

Now, as businesses begin to rehire, the difference between the two rates widened again.

"People will tout this #JobsReport as good & that we are recovering. Yet, we are leaving Black people behind again -- this is true by gender & age," tweeted Olugbenga Ajilore, senior economist at the left-leaning Center for American Progress.

"As the economy recovers, African Americans just don't get hired," Ajilore told CNN, citing long-standing employment discrimination.

Meanwhile, the share of employed Asian Americans slipped slightly to 51.7% in May, while their unemployment rate rose to 15%, from 14.5% the prior month.

A larger share of both men and women were in the workforce last month and both saw declines in their unemployment rates.

The jobless rate for adult women, who have been hit harder in this economic downturn, fell to 13.9% in May, down from 15.5% last month. The rate for adult men came in at 11.6%, compared to 13% in April.

Industries dominated by female workers -- including restaurants, hospitality and retail -- had been more affected by states requiring residents to stay home and nonessential businesses to close. These sectors, however, increased employment in May as states began to reopen.

Key to helping women return to employment will be safely reopening child care centers, summer camps and schools, said Willian Rodgers III, chief economist at the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University.

"Getting this right can help speed up the recovery," said Rodgers, who serves on New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy's Restart and Recovery Commission, where the issue of child care is a focus.

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