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News from EPI Black and Hispanic unemployment remains high in metro areas nationwide

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For Immediate Release: Monday, July 2, 2012
Contact: Phoebe Silag or Karen Conner, news@epi.org 202-775-8810

Black and Hispanic unemployment remains high in metro areas nationwide

In 2011, the Las Vegas metro area had the highest African American unemployment rate among 19 metro areas with large African American populations, a new Economic Policy Institute report by Director of Race, Ethnicity, and the Economy Program Algernon Austin finds. A second report, also by Austin, finds that the Providence, Rhode Island, metro area had the highest Hispanic unemployment rate among 25 metro areas with large Hispanic populations in 2011. The African American unemployment rate in Las Vegas was 22.6 percent in 2011, and the Hispanic unemployment rate in Providence was 23.3 percent. These rates are comparable to the highest national rates among all races and ethnicities during the Great Depression.

Black metropolitan unemployment in 2011: Las Vegas’s rate rises significantly finds that Las Vegas not only had the highest African American unemployment rate in 2011, it had the largest increase in black unemployment—2.8 percentage points—from 2010 to 2011. The Los Angeles metro area had the second highest African American unemployment rate in 2011, at 21.1 percent. Detroit, which had the highest African American unemployment rate in 2010, saw a 7.3 percentage point decrease in its rate, to 18.1 percent. The lowest African American unemployment rates in 2011 were in Virginia Beach, Richmond, and Washington, DC, though at around 10 percent each, they were still high. The national black unemployment rate in 2011 was 15.9 percent.

Hispanic metropolitan unemployment in 2011: Providence, RI, again tops the list finds that Providence’s Hispanic unemployment rate far outpaced that of the next highest metro area, Orlando, which had a Hispanic unemployment rate of 16.6 percent. The Hispanic unemployment rate has exceeded 20 percent in each of the last three years in Providence. Washington, DC, had the lowest Hispanic unemployment rate of any of the metro areas examined, at 5.9 percent. The national Hispanic unemployment rate was 11.5 percent in 2011.

“Employment prospects will not improve rapidly without aggressive action by policymakers to provide support to the flagging economy,” said Austin. “While infrastructure investments and aid to state and local governments will benefit all, they are particularly important for Hispanics in construction and African Americans in the public sector.”

African American unemployment was significantly higher than white unemployment in every metro area. The highest black-white unemployment disparity in 2011 was in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area—the African American unemployment rate was 3.3 times the white rate. The lowest disparities were in Detroit and Richmond; in both, the African American unemployment rate was 1.8 times the white rate. The Hispanic unemployment rate was 2.5 times higher than the white rate in both Albuquerque and Providence in 2011; in Sacramento, Atlanta and Houston, the Hispanic and white unemployment rates were roughly the same.

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