Black Americans See Unemployment Rate Drop in Robust Job Market

By Catarina Saraiva

The U.S. labor market showed improvements for Black and Hispanic workers in April and especially for Black women, who have remained out of the workforce by some of the widest margins during the pandemic.

Photo by Christina Morillo from Pexels

The Black unemployment rate fell for a fourth straight month, dropping to 5.9% from 6.2% in March and shrinking the gap between White and Black joblessness to 2.7 percentage points. The White unemployment rate was unchanged at 3.2% last month, according to data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics Friday.

Hispanic joblessness among people over 16 also fell — to 4.1% from 4.2%. That’s a sharp improvement from the onset of the pandemic, when Latino Americans suffered the biggest blow from business shutdowns, sending their rate of unemployment up as high as 18.8%. 

Policy makers including at the Federal Reserve have been monitoring how different groups of Americans fare in the economic recovery from the pandemic. 

Fed Chair Jerome Powell has said he wants the current expansion to be long lasting, much like the one before the start of the Covid-19 crisis. He has referenced the positive outcomes in the couple of years that preceded the pandemic, including the lowest unemployment rate on record for Black Americans, and has said he wants the economy to return to those conditions.

Black women over 16 saw unemployment decline by an entire percentage point in April, to 5.2%. The drop was in part driven by those who exited the workforce, mirroring a trend seen with nearly all workers last month except Black men. 

The portion of Black men who are either looking for a job or employed reached 65.8% in April, a four-year high, though that ratio still remains far below that of White and Hispanic men. 

Black and Hispanic women remain among the groups most on the sidelines of the labor market, with employment as a share of the population down the most since before the pandemic, compared with other Americans.

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