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News from EPI The African American unemployment rate is at least twice the white unemployment rate in 14 states and the District of Columbia

In a state-by-state breakdown of unemployment rates by race and ethnicity for the first quarter of 2018, Economic Analyst Janelle Jones shows that, while there have been state-by-state improvements in prospects for black and Hispanic workers, their unemployment rates remain high relative to white workers in every state.

Of the states for which data are available, the highest African American unemployment rate was in the District of Columbia (12.9 percent), followed by Illinois (9.1 percent) and New Jersey (9.0 percent). The highest Hispanic state unemployment rate was in Connecticut (10.0 percent). The highest Asian unemployment rate was in Massachusetts (6.2 percent). In contrast, the highest white state unemployment rate was 5.2 percent, in West Virginia.

Tennessee had the lowest African American unemployment rate, at 4.8 percent, while the District of Columbia and Virginia had the lowest Hispanic unemployment rates, at 3.1 and 3.3 percent, respectively, and Hawaii had the lowest Asian unemployment rate at 1.6 percent. In several states, the unemployment rate for white workers is at or below 2 percent.

“All racial and ethnic groups are making employment gains as the labor market continues to tighten,” said Jones. “But even a relatively tight labor market is not enough to close shocking racial employment gaps. Policymakers must pursue truly full employment—making sure that the recovery reaches every corner of the economy before taking their foot off the gas.”

The African American unemployment rate is at least twice the white unemployment rate in 14 states and the District of Columbia. In the District of Columbia, the unemployment rate for African Americans is 8.5 times that of whites. Among states, South Carolina and Maryland have the highest ratios of black to white unemployment rates at 3.2-to-1 and 2.8-to-1, respectively. In five states and the District of Columbia, Hispanic unemployment rates exceed white unemployment rates by a ratio of 2-to-1 or higher.

Nationally, in the first quarter of 2018, African American workers had the highest unemployment rate nationally, at 7.2 percent, followed by Hispanic (5.1 percent), white (3.3 percent), and Asian workers (3.0 percent).