Single-Digit Black Unemployment May Not be So Far Away

Double-digit black unemployment rates have been the norm for the past six years. However, following another solid month of job growth in December 2014, the black unemployment rate fell to 10.4 percent—just half a percentage point away from single digits. In a previous post, I highlighted the strong labor market gains made by people of color in 2014, based on every major economic indicator, including the unemployment rate, employment-to-population ratio (EPOP) and labor force participation. From December 2013–December 2014, African Americans had the largest increase in both labor force participation rate and EPOP of any demographic group. Combined with the fact that unemployment rates for whites (4.8 percent) and Hispanics (6.5 percent) have moved steadily closer to pre-recession levels, it’s not unreasonable to assume that, if 2014 labor market trends continue into 2015, black employment could really get a boost.

By projecting the 2014 average monthly change in the size of the black labor force and the number of unemployed black workers through 2015, I calculated a projected monthly black unemployment rate. I also used monthly averages over the past two years, both by level and percent change. Based on these estimates shown in the figure below, the black unemployment rate could finally fall below 10 percent by mid-2015.


2015 projected black unemployment rates based on 2013 and 2014 trends in labor force and unemployed

 Date 2014 avg level change/mo 2013-2014 avg level change/mo 2014 avg percent change/mo 2013-2014 avg percent change/mo
Dec-2014 10.4% 10.4% 10.4% 10.4%
Jan-2015 10.3% 10.3% 10.3% 10.3%
Feb-2015 10.2% 10.1% 10.2% 10.2%
Mar-2015 10.1% 10.0% 10.1% 10.1%
Apr-2015 10.0% 9.9% 10.0% 10.0%
May-2015  9.9% 9.7% 9.9% 9.9%
Jun-2015 9.7% 9.6% 9.8% 9.8%
Jul-2015 9.6% 9.4% 9.7% 9.7%
Aug-2015 9.5% 9.3% 9.6% 9.5%
Sep-2015 9.4% 9.1% 9.4% 9.4%
Oct-2015 9.3% 9.0% 9.3% 9.3%
Nov-2015 9.2% 8.9% 9.2% 9.2%
Dec-2015 9.1% 8.7% 9.1% 9.1%
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The data below can be saved or copied directly into Excel.

Source: EPI analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics' Current Population Survey public data series

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