Gap in US Black and white unemployment rates is widest in 5 years
Unemployment rates for African Americans and whites in the US had its widest gap in five years in June, indicating an uneven nascent recovery from historic job losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
While the rates for both groups decreased in June, the rate for whites fell at a much faster rate. The white unemployment rate went down by 2.3 percent to 10.1% from 12.4%, whereas the rate for Blacks fell 1.4 percentage points to 15.4% from 16.8%, according to data the Labor Department released on Thursday.
The gap of 5.3 percentage points is now the widest since May 2015 and is indicative of an important economic component of racial inequality at a time when the US has been rocked by anti-racism protests over police brutality against African Americans in recent weeks.
“Unfortunately that is consistent with the pattern that we have observed for decades in this country,” said Valerie Wilson, director of the Economic Policy Institute’s program on race, ethnicity, and the economy.
The coronavirus pandemic halted the record-long US economic expansion just as it was creating better job opportunities for workers of color.
Wilson said that it appears that Black workers are among the last to benefit as the labor market slowly recovers, a pattern that is typically repeated after a recession.
“Coming out of the Great Recession, we were almost 10 years in before we started to see some real consistent improvement in the Black unemployment rate,” Wilson said.
Compared to other racial or ethnic groups, Black workers have the highest unemployment rate. While the unemployment rate for Hispanic workers fell to 14.5% in June from 17.6% in May, the rate for Asian workers dropped to 13.8% from 15%.