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News from EPI States’ unemployment rates improving for all races and ethnicities, but pockets of high unemployment remain

In the first quarter of 2017, unemployment rates ranged from a high of 6.7 percent in New Mexico to a low of 2.6 percent in Colorado. Nationally, African Americans had the highest unemployment rate in the first quarter, at 8.2 percent, followed by Hispanics (5.9 percent), whites (4.8 percent), and Asians (3.5 percent), according to EPI Economic Analyst Janelle Jones in her latest quarterly analysis of state unemployment by race and ethnicity.

“The economy continues to show signs of recovery after the Great Recession,” said Jones. “However, the recovery has not been equal in reaching communities of color across the country. Policymakers should work toward genuine full employment and keep interest rates low until the labor market tightens and the recovery reaches every community.”

The white unemployment rate was lowest in South Dakota (1.7 percent) and highest in West Virginia (5.6 percent). South Dakota has had the lowest white unemployment for seven consecutive, while West Virginia has had the highest white unemployment rate for seven consecutive quarters.

African American unemployment was lowest in Delaware (5.8 percent) and highest in the District of Columbia (12.9 percent) and in Pennsylvania (11.1 percent). 19 out of 22 states had African American unemployment rates at or below 10 percent.

The Hispanic unemployment rate was highest in Pennsylvania (10.8 percent) and lowest in the District of Columbia (2.4 percent). Pennsylvania has had the highest Hispanic unemployment rate for three consecutive quarters, and was the only state in the first quarter with a Hispanic unemployment rate above 9 percent. Colorado replaced Utah as the state with the lowest Hispanic unemployment rate.

The Asian unemployment rate was lowest in Massachusetts (2.2 percent) and highest in Nevada (6.7 percent). Nevada has had the highest Asian unemployment rate for three consecutive quarters, and was the only state with an Asian unemployment rate above 5 percent.

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