Press Release
November 16, 2021

LISEP Analysis Shows Living-Wage Job Growth for Black Workers for 4th Month

Racial gap narrows as gender gap grows, according to Ludwig Institute report

WASHINGTON, D.C. — For the fourth consecutive month a higher percentage of Black workers are finding living-wage jobs, according to the October True Rate of Unemployment (TRU) report from the Ludwig Institute of Shared Economic Prosperity (LISEP). That’s the modest good news.

But the bad news is that Black workers still have a lower percentage of living wage jobs than white workers. And, the living-wage job gap between female workers and their male counterparts has reached double digits, the largest disparity since the beginning of the pandemic.

“We are seeing some encouraging signs of an improving economy, with both Black and Hispanic workers narrowing the racial inequality gap in recent months and a general improvement in living-wage job prospects, though we have a ways to go to achieve equitable treatment,” said LISEP chairman Gene Ludwig. “Yet the widening gender gap is concerning, as a truly sustainable economic recovery must treat all participants equally.”

LISEP’s TRU report for October revealed that the overall percentage of “functionally unemployed” Americans — defined as those seeking, but unable to find, full-time employment paying above the poverty level — dropped to 23.5%, a 0.4 percentage point decline over the previous month. By comparison, the monthly unemployment rate released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics stands at 4.6% for October, a 0.2 percentage point drop from the 4.8% rate in September.

For the fourth consecutive month, Black workers have seen an improvement in living-wage job prospects, with functional unemployment for this group improving by 1.2 percentage points, from 27.9% to 26.7%. The Black TRU has improved more than 3 percentage points over the July 2021 level (29.8%), and is the lowest since December 2019, which was also 26.7%. Hispanic workers led all demographics with a 1.4 percentage point improvement in TRU (from 28.8% in September to 27.4% in October), while White workers lost ground with a TRU up 0.3 percentage points, 22.3% from 22.0% the previous month.

But even as the racial gap for living-wage jobs has narrowed, the same cannot be said for the gender gap. Male workers saw a significant improvement in the October TRU report, dropping 1.4 percentage points, from 19.9% down to 18.5%. Women, meanwhile, moved in the opposite direction, rising from 28.7% to 29.1%, a 0.4 percentage point gain. The 10.6 percentage point gap between male and female workers is the first time the differential has moved into double digits since the beginning of the pandemic, when the difference was 11.1 percentage points in May 2020.

Ludwig said that overall it was an encouraging report, but certain aspects — particularly the widening gender gap — should serve as a signal to policymakers.

“It is gratifying to see most numbers moving in the right direction, but we clearly have a lot of work to do for low- and middle-income America,” Ludwig said. “Without a doubt, final passage of President Biden’s infrastructure bill is a step in the right direction -- not only will this provide a pipeline of well-paying jobs into the foreseeable future, but it will develop the critical infrastructure necessary for our nation to aggressively compete in the global economy.

“But without a commitment to human infrastructure — child care, elder care, education, job training, and the like — we may very well see certain groups get left further behind. Policymakers should take note.”

About TRU

LISEP issued the white paper “Measuring Better: Development of ‘True Rate of Unemployment’ Data as the Basis for Social and Economic Policy'' upon announcing the new statistical measure in October. The paper and methodology can be viewed here. LISEP issues TRU one to two weeks following the release of the BLS unemployment report, which occurs on the first Friday of each month. The TRU rate and supporting data are available on the LISEP website at


The Ludwig Institute for Shared Economic Prosperity (LISEP) was created in 2019 by Ludwig and his wife, Dr. Carol Ludwig. The mission of LISEP is to improve the economic well-being of middle- and lower-income Americans through research and education, and seeks to advance the dialogue around policy solutions to improve the well-being of all Americans.

About Gene Ludwig

In addition to his role as LISEP chair, Gene Ludwig is founder of the Promontory family of companies and Canapi LLC, a financial technology venture fund. He is the CEO of Promontory MortgagePath, a technology-based mortgage fulfillment and solutions company, and chairman of Promontory Financial Group. Ludwig is the former vice chairman and senior control officer of Bankers Trust New York Corp., and served as the U.S. Comptroller of the Currency from 1993 to 1998. He is also author of the book The Vanishing American Dream, which investigates the economic challenges facing low- and middle-income Americans. It was released in September 2020 by Disruption Books. On Twitter: @geneludwig.


Jim Gardner
(573) 680-1822