STUDY: Black Unemployment Rate is Double White Rate in 14 States, D.C.

By Kenrya Rankin May 17, 2018

While President Donald Trump is fond of taking credit for the lowest national Black unemployment rate since the Bureau of Labor Statistics started reporting by race in the 1970s, experts say that the credit should actually go to the Barack Obama administration.

“Trump has had nothing to do with the decline in African-American jobless rates, or any other group’s rates,” Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and a former adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, told Vox earlier this year. “He’s completely riding a trend he inherited.”

The Black unemployment rate was 6.6 percent in April 2018. A new study from the Economic Policy Institute released today (May 17) makes it clear that while that number maybe trending downward, it is still indicative of a wide gulf between the unemployment rates for Blacks and Whites in America.

For the report, economic analyst Janelle Jones examined available unemployment records from BLS’ Local Area Unemployment Statistics database for the first quarter of 2018; this covered 23 states and the District of Columbia. Jones discovered that in 14 states and D.C., the employment rate for Blacks was at least twice that of their White counterparts. That rate soars for the location with the highest Black unemployment rate; D.C.’s Black employment rate is 12.9 percent, for a ratio of 8.5 to 1. The highest rate for Latinx workers is in Connecticut (10 percent), and it’s at least double the White rate in five states. The highest rate for Whites is in West Virginia, at 5.2 percent.

Nationwide, Jones found the following rates for the first quarter of the year: 7.2 percent for Black workers, 5.1 for Latinx people, 3.3 percent for Whites and 3.0 percent for Asian Americans. The study does not report unemployment rates for Native Americans or Middle Eastern and North African people.

This interactive map from Economic Policy Institute illustrates the data:

rnt“All racial and ethnic groups are making employment gains as the labor market continues to tighten,” Jones said in a statement. “But even a relatively tight labor market is not enough to close shocking racial employment gaps. Policymakers must pursue truly full employment—making sure that the recovery reaches every corner of the economy before taking their foot off the gas.”