Economic Indicators | Jobs and Unemployment

Recovery of Hispanic unemployment rate expands to four more states in third quarter of 2015

Press release

In September 2015, the national unemployment rate was 5.1 percent, down 0.2 percentage points since the end of the second quarter in June 2015. Yet even as the recovery moves ahead slowly, conditions vary greatly across states and across racial and ethnic groups. The pace of job growth during the third quarter was slower in 35 states and the District of Columbia than over the same period last year. In September, state unemployment rates ranged from a high of 7.3 percent in West Virginia to a low of 2.8 percent in North Dakota. Nationally, African Americans had the highest unemployment rate at 9.2 percent, followed by Latinos (6.4 percent), whites (4.4 percent), and Asians (3.6 percent).

Following is an overview of racial unemployment rates and racial unemployment rate gaps by state for the third quarter of 2015. We provide this analysis on a quarterly basis in order to generate a sample size large enough to create reliable estimates of unemployment rates by race at the state level. We only report estimates for states where the sample size of these subgroups is large enough to create an accurate estimate.

Trends among whites

In the third quarter of 2015, the white unemployment rate was lowest in South Dakota (1.9 percent) and highest in West Virginia (7.5 percent), as shown in the interactive map, which presents state unemployment rates by race and ethnicity. Nebraska had the lowest white unemployment rate in the second quarter, while West Virginia has had the highest white unemployment rate for two consecutive quarters.

Interactive Map

State unemployment rates, by race/ethnicity and overall, 2015Q3

State All White Black Hispanic Asian
California 6.1% 4.7% 11.1% 7.4% 4.8%
Alabama 6.1% 4.2% 10.5% NA NA
Alaska 6.6% 4.9% NA NA NA
Arizona 6.2% 4.5% NA 8.5% NA
Arkansas 5.4% 4.2% 9.8% NA NA
Colorado 4.2% 4.0% NA 4.5% NA
Connecticut 5.3% 3.7% NA 11.1% NA
Delaware 4.8% 4.0% 7.6% NA NA
District of Columbia 6.8% 2.4% 13.6% 3.7% NA
Florida 5.4% 4.2% 9.0% 6.0% NA
Georgia 5.9% 4.2% 9.2% 5.0% NA
Hawaii 3.5% 3.6% NA NA 2.7%
Idaho 4.2% 4.0% NA 4.8% NA
Illinois 5.6% 4.2% 13.3% 5.6% 3.8%
Indiana 4.6% 3.9% 8.1% NA NA
Iowa 3.7% 3.3% NA NA NA
Kansas 4.5% 4.3% NA NA NA
Kentucky 5.1% 4.3% NA NA NA
Louisiana 6.1% 4.6% 9.5% NA NA
Maine 4.5% 4.4% NA NA NA
Maryland 5.1% 3.2% 8.3% NA NA
Massachusetts 4.7% 3.8% 5.7% 13.2% 2.1%
Michigan 5.1% 3.9% 11.2% NA NA
Minnesota 3.9% 3.1% NA NA NA
Mississippi 6.3% 4.3% 9.2% NA NA
Missouri 5.6% 4.8% 11.8% NA NA
Montana 4.1% 3.8% NA NA NA
Nebraska 2.8% 2.2% NA NA NA
Nevada 6.8% 5.1% NA 8.6% NA
New Hampshire 3.6% 3.8% NA NA NA
New Jersey 5.7% 4.7% 9.8% 7.2% 3.1%
New Mexico 6.7% 4.1% NA 6.1% NA
New York 5.2% 4.2% 8.1% 6.1% 4.6%
North Carolina 5.9% 4.5% 9.4% 8.3% NA
North Dakota 2.9% 2.3% NA NA NA
Ohio 4.7% 3.6% 11.8% NA NA
Oklahoma 4.5% 3.8% NA 4.8% NA
Oregon 6.1% 5.8% NA 7.6% NA
Pennsylvania 5.4% 4.5% 10.2% 8.6% NA
Rhode Island 5.6% 4.7% NA NA NA
South Carolina 6.0% 4.2% 11.0% NA NA
South Dakota 3.7% 1.9% NA NA NA
Tennessee 5.7% 5.0% 8.3% NA NA
Texas 4.2% 3.2% 7.1% 4.7% 2.8%
Utah 3.6% 3.2% NA 5.8% NA
Vermont 3.6% 3.6% NA NA NA
Virginia 4.5% 3.4% 8.3% 5.2% NA
Washington 5.3% 5.2% NA 4.8% 2.3%
West Virginia 7.5% 7.5% NA NA NA
Wisconsin 4.5% 4.1% NA NA NA
Wyoming 4.0% 3.7% NA NA NA
ChartData Download data

The data below can be saved or copied directly into Excel.

Note: The map only reports unemployment rates for state subgroups with sample sizes large enough to create accurate estimates.

Source: EPI analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) data and Current Population Survey (CPS) data

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As shown in Table 1, which displays changes in state unemployment rates by race and ethnicity from the fourth quarter of 2007 to the third quarter of 2015, West Virginia is the state where the white unemployment rate remains most elevated above its pre-recession level—3.3 percentage points higher than in the fourth quarter of 2007. On the other hand, the white unemployment rate is at or below its pre-recession level in 16 states: Arkansas, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, and Vermont. The white unemployment rate is within 0.5 percentage points of its pre-recession level in another 19 states.

Trends among African Americans

During the third quarter of 2015, the African American unemployment rate was lowest in Massachusetts (5.7 percent). However, Massachusetts’s exceptionally low black unemployment rate may actually underestimate joblessness in the state. The Massachusetts labor force shrank by 1.8 percent between June and September 2015, suggesting that lower unemployment rates may result more from job seekers giving up their job search than actually getting jobs. The next lowest black unemployment rate was in Texas (7.1 percent), while the rate was highest in the District of Columbia (13.6 percent) and Illinois (13.3 percent). Fifteen states had African American unemployment rates below 10 percent in the third quarter of 2015—four more states than in the second quarter.

As shown in Table 2, which displays the black–white and Hispanic–white unemployment rate ratios in the third quarter of 2015, Massachusetts’s black–white unemployment rate gap was the smallest in the country. In that state, the black unemployment rate was 1.5 times the white rate, down from 1.9 times the white rate during the previous quarter. This change was due entirely to a significant (but questionable) drop in the state’s black unemployment rate during the third quarter. The largest gaps were in the District of Columbia and Ohio, where the black unemployment rate was 5.7 and 3.3 times the white rate, respectively.

With regard to recovery, the African American unemployment rate is at or below its pre-recession level in six states: Indiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee, and Texas. The black unemployment rate is within 0.5 percentage points of its pre-recession level in Missouri, New York, and South Carolina. But this numerical “recovery” must be put in proper context because with the exceptions of Texas, New York, and Tennessee, each of these states also had black unemployment rates that were among the highest in the nation before the recession. The black unemployment rate remains most elevated above its pre-recession level in Alabama (5.2 percentage points higher). Before the recession, the African American unemployment rate in Alabama was 5.3 percent—nearly half of what it is now.

Trends among Hispanics

The Hispanic unemployment rate was highest in Massachusetts (13.2 percent) and lowest in the District of Columbia (3.7 percent) and Colorado (4.5 percent). These states replaced Connecticut and Georgia as the places with the highest and lowest Hispanic unemployment rates, respectively.

The Hispanic unemployment rate is at or below its pre-recession level in five states: Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, New York, and Washington. The Hispanic unemployment rate is within 0.5 percentage points of its pre-recession level in California, Florida, and Texas. Thus, the number of states where the Hispanic unemployment rate was at or near full recovery (and for which we can produce reliable estimates) stands at eight—double the number at this time last year. In the fourth quarter of 2007, Colorado, Illinois, Washington, Florida, and Texas had Hispanic unemployment rates lower than the national average among Hispanics—a distinction they continue to hold.

The Hispanic unemployment rate is lower than the white rate in the state of Washington, while the Hispanic–white unemployment rate gap is largest in Massachusetts, where the Hispanic unemployment rate is 3.5 times the white rate.

Trends among Asians

The Asian unemployment rate was lowest in Massachusetts (2.1 percent) and highest in California (4.8 percent). The Asian unemployment rate remains most elevated above pre-recession levels in New York (1.4 percentage points). The Asian unemployment rate was below the pre-recession levels in Washington and Texas and within 0.5 percentage points of the pre-recession levels in California, Hawaii, and Illinois.

Methodology

The unemployment rate estimates in this issue brief are based on the Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) and the Current Population Survey (CPS) from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The overall state unemployment rate is taken directly from the LAUS. CPS six-month ratios are applied to LAUS data to calculate the rates by race and ethnicity. For each state subgroup, we calculate the unemployment rate using the past six months of CPS data. We then find the ratio of this subgroup rate to the state unemployment rate using the same period of CPS data. This gives us an estimate of how the subgroup compares with the state overall.

While this methodology allows us to calculate unemployment-rate estimates at the state level by race by quarter, it is less precise at the national level than simply using the CPS. Thus, the national-level estimates may differ from direct CPS estimates.

In many states, the sample size of these subgroups is not large enough to create an accurate estimate of their unemployment rate. We only report data for groups which had, on average, a sample size of at least 700 in the labor force for each six-month period.

Tables

Table 1

Change in state unemployment rates by race and ethnicity, 2007Q4–2015Q3 (percentage points)

State White Black Hispanic Asian
USA 0.1 0.8 0.5 0.4
Alabama 1.1 5.2 NA NA
Alaska 0.4 NA NA NA
Arizona 1.4 NA 2.9 NA
Arkansas -0.4 0.9 NA NA
California 0.1 1.3 0.4 0.1
Colorado 0.5 NA -0.7 NA
Connecticut 0.2 NA 2.7 NA
Delaware 1.0 2.6 NA NA
District of Columbia 0.7 3.9 NA NA
Florida 0.4 2.9 0.4 NA
Georgia 1.0 1.1 -2.1 NA
Hawaii -0.3 NA NA 0.3
Idaho 0.9 NA NA NA
Illinois -0.2 1.1 -0.2 0.4
Indiana -0.3 -3.1 NA NA
Iowa -0.2 NA NA NA
Kansas 0.8 NA NA NA
Kentucky -0.8 NA NA NA
Louisiana 2.5 1.5 NA NA
Maine -0.4 NA NA NA
Maryland 0.5 2.9 NA NA
Massachusetts -0.8 NA NA NA
Michigan -2.2 -4.2 NA NA
Minnesota -1.1 NA NA NA
Mississippi 0.5 -1.6 NA NA
Missouri 0.4 0.2 NA NA
Montana 0.5 NA NA NA
Nebraska -0.4 NA NA NA
Nevada 0.7 NA 2.0 NA
New Hampshire 0.4 NA NA NA
New Jersey 0.7 1.4 2.0 0.8
New Mexico 1.1 NA 2.0 NA
New York 0.5 0.4 -0.7 1.4
North Carolina 0.5 1.3 2.0 NA
North Dakota 0.3 NA NA NA
Ohio -0.9 -1.9 NA NA
Oklahoma 0.9 NA NA NA
Oregon 0.5 NA NA NA
Pennsylvania 0.4 3.2 NA NA
Rhode Island -0.5 NA NA NA
South Carolina 0.5 0.2 NA NA
South Dakota -0.1 NA NA NA
Tennessee 0.6 -1.0 NA NA
Texas -0.3 -1.0 0.1 -0.2
Utah 0.8 NA 2.1 NA
Vermont -0.5 NA NA NA
Virginia 0.5 3.2 1.6 NA
Washington 0.5 NA -0.9 -1.4
West Virginia 3.3 NA NA NA
Wisconsin 0.1 NA NA NA
Wyoming 1.3 NA NA NA

Note: The table only reports data for state subgroups with sample sizes large enough to create accurate estimates.

Source: EPI analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) data and Current Population Survey (CPS) data

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Table 2

Black–white and Hispanic–white state unemployment rate ratios, 2015Q3

State Black–white ratio Hispanic–white ratio
USA 2.3 1.6
Alabama 2.5 NA
Alaska NA NA
Arizona NA 1.9
Arkansas 2.3 NA
California 2.3 1.6
Colorado NA 1.1
Connecticut NA 3.0
Delaware 1.9 NA
District of Columbia 5.7 1.6
Florida 2.1 1.4
Georgia 2.2 1.2
Hawaii NA NA
Idaho NA 1.2
Illinois 3.2 1.3
Indiana 2.1 NA
Iowa NA NA
Kansas NA NA
Kentucky NA NA
Louisiana 2.0 NA
Maine NA NA
Maryland 2.5 NA
Massachusetts 1.5 3.5
Michigan 2.9 NA
Minnesota NA NA
Mississippi 2.1 NA
Missouri 2.4 NA
Montana NA NA
Nebraska NA NA
Nevada NA 1.7
New Hampshire NA NA
New Jersey 2.1 1.5
New Mexico NA 1.5
New York 1.9 1.5
North Carolina 2.1 1.8
North Dakota NA NA
Ohio 3.3 NA
Oklahoma NA 1.3
Oregon NA 1.3
Pennsylvania 2.3 1.9
Rhode Island NA NA
South Carolina 2.6 NA
South Dakota NA NA
Tennessee 1.7 NA
Texas 2.2 1.5
Utah NA 1.8
Vermont NA NA
Virginia 2.4 1.5
Washington NA 0.9
West Virginia NA NA
Wisconsin NA NA
Wyoming NA NA

Note: The table only reports data for state subgroups with sample sizes large enough to create accurate estimates.

Source: EPI analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) data and Current Population Survey (CPS) data

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