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US Black-White Unemployment Parity


The gap in unemployment between black and white workers between the ages 35-44 stood at 2 percentage points in 2019, with black workers observing unemployment levels almost twice as high as those of their white peers.

In 2020, this historical trend between workers of all ages intensified.

“The Black unemployment rate reached a high of 16.6 percent in May 2020, and as of August 2020, it was still at 13.2 percent. Conversely, the white unemployment rate fell to 6.9 percent in August 2020 from a high of 12.8 percent in April, or nearly half of the Black unemployment rate. The ratio of Black-to-white unemployment went from 1.27 in April 2020 to 1.97 in August 2020—that is, the Black unemployment rate is currently double the white unemployment rate.”

In case of the 2007 recession, the employment impacts in the US were felt most strongly black and Hispanic workers, men, youth, and low-education workers (Hoynes et al., 2012). These dramatic differences in the cyclicality across demographic groups are generally found to be stable across throughout recessionary periods.

Moreover, some evidence suggests that labour market discrimination is counter-cyclical (such as Johnston and Lordan (2015) and Jayadev and Johnson, (2017)).

When will the US achieve racial unemployment parity between black and white people according to BLS?

This question will resolve as the first date when the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports unemployment levels for men between the ages of 35-44 is equal or lower for Black people compared to White people.

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