April 4, 2015

Black Unemployment at Outrageously High Levels

By Valerie Wilson

After a year of solid job growth in 2014, the forecast for 2015 is for modest improvements in unemployment. The national unemployment rate is projected to fall from 5.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014 to 5.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2015.

This issue brief examines how unemployment rates, employment-to-population (EPOP) ratios, and long-term unemployment (defined as out of work for six months or more) of whites, Latinos, and African Americans changed nationally and by state between 2013 and 2014, and projects unemployment rates for the fourth quarter of 2015.

Key findings include:

In the fourth quarter of 2014, nationwide unemployment rates were 4.5 percent for whites, 6.7 percent for Hispanics, 11.0 percent for blacks and 4.4 percent for Asians. These rates are projected to decline modestly through the end of 2015.

Five years into recovery from the Great Recession, in the fourth quarter of 2014, the national white and Hispanic unemployment rates were each within 1 percentage point of prerecession levels while the black unemployment rate was 2.4 percentage points higher than it was at the end of 2007.

The national black unemployment rate of 11 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014 is still higher than the national unemployment rate at the peak of the recession (9.9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2009, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics).

In 2014, the annual black unemployment rate was highest in Wisconsin (19.9 percent), Nevada (16.1 percent), Michigan (15.8 percent), and the District of Columbia (15.7 percent).

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