Report | Race and Ethnicity

Different Race, Different Recession: American Indian Unemployment in 2010

Issue Brief #289

Download PDF

There are two very different experiences of the recession in some regions of the country. While Alaska and the Northern Plains states have had some of the lowest unemployment rates for whites since the start of the recession, these regions have had among the highest rates of joblessness for American Indians. This Issue Brief documents these extreme regional employment disparities as well as the smaller but still significant ones between American Indians and whites from the first half of 2007 to the first half of 2010. It presents American Indian and white unemployment rates and employment-to-population ratios nationally and broken down by region.

The key findings are:

•  From the first half of 2007 to the first half of 2010, the American Indian unemployment rate nationally increased 7.7 percentage points to 15.2%. This increase was 1.6 times the size of the white increase.

•  By the first half of 2010, the unemployment rate for Alaska Natives jumped 6.3 percentage points to 21.3%—the highest regional unemployment rate for American Indians.

•  Since the start of the recession, American Indians in the Midwest (see Table 1 for the states within each region) experienced the greatest increase in unemployment, growing by 10.3 percentage points to 19.3%.

•  By the first half of this year, slightly more than half—51.5%—of American Indians nationally were working, down from 58.3% in the first half of 2007.

•  In the first half of this year, only 44% of American Indians in the Northern Plains were working, the worst employment rate for Native Americans regionally.

•  The employment situation is the worst for American Indians in some of the same regions where it is best for whites: Alaska and the Northern Plains.

See related work on Race and Ethnicity

See more work by Algernon Austin