African Americans Twice as Likely to Be Unemployed in Many States

The U.S. unemployment rate fell to 3.9% last month, its lowest level since December 2000. That’s down from a recent peak of 10% in October 2009. That’s the good news.

The less-good news is that the decline through the end of the first quarter of this year has not been as great among African Americans and Hispanics as it was among whites. In the United States as a whole, African Americans are 2.2 times more likely to be unemployed than whites and Hispanics are 1.5 times more likely to be unemployed than are white Americans.

In the first quarter of 2018, African American workers had the highest unemployment rate nationally, at 7.2%, followed by Hispanic (5.1%), white (3.3%) and Asian workers (3%).

The report was issued Thursday by the Economic Policy Institute, based on unemployment data from 17 states and the District of Columbia. The other states report either no or partial data on unemployment by race or ethnicity.

Of the 22 states for which data is available, unemployment among African Americans was at or below its pre-recession levels at the end of the first quarter. Three states Delaware, Indiana, and Pennsylvania had the smallest gap between black and white unemployment rates. In these states, black unemployment was 1.6 times the white rate. The largest gap was posted in the District of Columbia, where the black unemployment rate is 8.5 times the white rate.

In the first quarter of 2018, among 16 states for which data is available, the Hispanic unemployment rate was highest in Connecticut (10.0%) and lowest in Arkansas and Virginia (both at 3.3%). The Hispanic unemployment rate was 3.1% in the District of Columbia. Connecticut and Washington were the only states with Hispanic unemployment rates above 8% in the first quarter.

In five states and the District of Columbia, Hispanic unemployment rates exceed white unemployment rates by a ratio of 2-to-1 or higher (Connecticut, 3.4-to-1; Massachusetts, 2.1-to-1; Washington, 2.1-to-1; Colorado, 2.0-to-1; District of Columbia, 2.0-to-1, and Idaho, 2.0-to-1).

The full report and methodology are available at the Economic Policy Institute website.