Black Unemployment Rate Drops, Still Outpaced by White Job Gains

The Black unemployment rate fell for the first time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, but it decreased for White workers by more, widening the disparity further.

The unemployment rate for Black Americans fell to 15.4% in June, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics report published Thursday. It had risen since February, reaching a pandemic peak of 16.8% in May even as the rate for other races fell.

White unemployment peaked at 14.2% in April and fell to 10.1% in June. The gap between White and Black unemployment, which reached a historic low of 2 percentage points in August, widened further in June to 5.3 percentage points, a disparity last seen in 2015.

The Black unemployment rate is now the highest among the largest race categories reported by the BLS. Latino unemployment, which peaked at 18.9% in April, fell to 14.5% last month.

White Americans experience lower joblessness than other demographics, meaning the White unemployment rate is below the overall rate of 11.1%. Whites also have a higher prime-age participation rate, a measure of people aged 25 to 54 employed or looking for work in the labor force.

The number of overall Black Americans employed climbed above the 50% threshold in June. Black Americans were the only large race demographic for which this indicator dipped below half during the crisis.

The decline in Black unemployment was led by Black women, whose rate fell to 14% from 16.5% in May. Black men actually saw an increase in their jobless rate, to 16.3% from 15.5% the previous month.

Racial inequality has been under a harsh spotlight in the U.S. since George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, died at the hands of a White police officer in Minneapolis, sparking weeks of nationwide protests. Federal Reserve officials highlighted the historic drop in the Black unemployment rate during the last recovery and economists have called on the central bank to specifically target the rate when making monetary policy decisions. Disaggregating data based on demographics can often paint a better picture of what is happening in the real economy.

Read More: Unrest Spotlights Depth of Black Americans’ Economic Struggle

— With assistance by Katia Dmitrieva

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