Chapter 3 of the Greater Boston Housing Report Card 2021, focusing on the housing market and the state of housing production.read more
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While the trend in Greater Boston unemployment is consistent with the state overall, job losses were experienced by some groups more than others. Among those in frontline occupations, unemployment was notably worse for those employed in food preparation and serving, sales, and transportation and moving. Of all the claimants who were employed in frontline occupations between March 2020 and March 2021, 72 percent were employed in one of those three occupational groups. As seen in Appendix Figure 2, unemployment in frontline occupation groups moved in tandem over the course of 2020, but were predominantly filed by just a few occupational groups. Not only were initial job losses more acute among low-wage and frontline workers, but job recovery is much slower for these workers. In fact, nationwide low-wage employment rates were more than 30 percent lower in February 2021 than in February 2020, compared to just two percent lower for high-wage workers and eight percent lower for middle wage workers (from https://tracktherecovery.org/).
A similar story has unfolded for individuals previously employed in non-frontline occupation groups. Accordingly, individuals employed in these occupations are the most at risk for struggling to keep up with housing costs due to loss of income. As seen in Appendix Figure 3 above, unemployment among non-frontline workers was heavily concentrated among just a few occupational categories. Fifty-five percent of claimants who did not work in frontline occupations previously worked in office and administrative support, management, and personal care and service occupations. Over the course of this period, 47 percent of all claimants were previously frontline workers, with non-frontline workers making up the remaining 53 percent.
Some non-frontline occupations also showed large unemployment filings; however, the occupational groups in the frontline categories are far more numerous. Nevertheless, office and administrative support jobs saw very large increases in claimants, followed closely by both business and financial operations, which have continued to have high numbers of new claimants, and both construction and personal care and service jobs. Construction (Massachusetts has very limited numbers of extraction jobs) spiked in May and then quickly tailed off. Personal care and service job loss claims have been more elevated over time, waning only recently.
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Prior to the start of the pandemic, unemployment claims were predominantly filed by men, mainly due to the large number of men employed seasonally by the construction industry. However, as Appendix Figure 8 shows, women now make up a larger share of claimants. This is likely due to the distribution of gender by occupation; in other words, more women work in industries that had disproportionately higher layoffs, particularly in service sector jobs.
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