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News from EPI State black–white unemployment gaps hold steady or widen

The gap between black and white unemployment widened or remained unchanged in 14 of the 22 states for which data were available in the first quarter of 2019, according to a state-by-state breakdown of unemployment rates by race and ethnicity by Valerie Wilson, Director of EPI’s Program on Race, Ethnicity, and the Economy.…-steady-or-widen/

“Taking a more detailed look at trends by race and by state shows that the topline unemployment rate is masking significant weakness in the economy,” said Wilson. “Yes, the economy is improving, but with African American unemployment approaching double-digits in several states, we simply can’t say that we are at full employment. Policymakers at the Federal Reserve, in Congress, and in state governments should explore ways to target black and Hispanic unemployment and ensure that everyone shares in the fruits of a growing economy.”

In 16 states and in the District of Columbia, African American unemployment rates exceed white unemployment rates by a ratio of 2.0-to-1 or higher. The District of Columbia has a black–white unemployment rate ratio of 5.7-to-1, while Missouri and Indiana have the highest ratios among states (3.2-to-1 and 3.1-to-1, respectively).

Meanwhile, the Hispanic unemployment rate is at or below its pre-recession level in 13 states (of the 16 states for which these data are available). The largest gaps between Hispanic and white unemployment rates are in Connecticut (2.7-to-1) and in Nebraska, Pennsylvania, and Washington (2.4-to-1 each). There are two states where the Hispanic unemployment rate is equal to or lower than the white rate (Georgia and Kansas, 0.9-to-1 each).

The highest African-American unemployment rate is in the District of Columbia (11.6%), followed by Illinois (9.4%), Indiana (9.1%), Louisiana (8.5%), and Pennsylvania (8.4%). The highest Hispanic state unemployment rate is in Washington (8.9%), followed by Pennsylvania (7.5%), Arizona (6.6%), Connecticut (6.6%), and Oregon (6.4%). Meanwhile, the highest white state unemployment rate is 4.8%, in West Virginia, and the highest Asian unemployment rate is 4.6%, in Washington State.