Gap in US Black and white unemployment rates widest in 5 years

The unemployment rate for Black men rose in June to 16.3 percent, the highest level since 2011.

Whitney Maddox and DeShaun Bradford stand in line with hundreds of others outside a Kentucky Career Center hoping to find assistance with their unemployment claim in Frankfort, Kentucky, United States [File: Bryan Woolston/Reuters]
Whitney Maddox and DeShaun Bradford stand in line with hundreds of others outside a Kentucky Career Center hoping to find assistance with their unemployment claim in Frankfort, Kentucky, United States [File: Bryan Woolston/Reuters]

The gap between the United States unemployment rates for Black and white people widened further in June, to its largest in five years, underscoring the uneven nature of the nascent recovery from the significant job losses triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.

Jobless rates for both groups fell in June, but the rate for white people came down at a much faster rate. The white unemployment rate fell 2.3 percentage points to 10.1 percent from 12.4 percent, while the rate for Black people dropped 1.4 points to 15.4 percent from 16.8 percent.

At 5.3 percentage points, the gap is now the widest since May 2015 and exposes an important economic component of racial inequality at a pivotal moment in US race relations. In recent weeks, the country has witnessed protests over police brutality against African Americans, particularly Black men.

The coronavirus pandemic brought an abrupt end to the record-long US economic expansion just as it was creating better job opportunities for Black workers and other minorities, and the job losses fell hardest on women and workers of colour.

Undone years of gains

The overall drop in the unemployment rate for African Americans in June was driven by a rise in the number of women returning to work as bars, restaurants and retail stores reopened, reversing some of the job losses they suffered in March and April.

The unemployment rate for Black men rose in June to 16.3 percent, the highest level since 2011, from 15.5 percent in May. In contrast, the unemployment rate for Black women dropped to 14 percent from 16.5 percent in May.

The widening spread between racial group jobless rates in the last two months has undone years of gains towards slowly bringing unemployment rates between Black and white people closer to parity.

Last August, the unemployment rate for Black workers dropped to a record low of 5.4 percent and the gap between Black and white workers narrowed to 2 percentage points, the narrowest since the Labor Department retooled its measurement of employment by race in 1972.

Black workers now have the highest unemployment rate when compared with other racial or ethnic groups after the unemployment rate for Hispanic workers dropped to 14.5 percent in June from 17.6 percent in May. The unemployment rate for Asian workers dropped to 13.8 percent from 15 percent.

Source : Reuters

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