Economic Indicators | Race and Ethnicity

State unemployment rates by race and ethnicity at the start of 2016 show a plodding recovery, with some states continuing to lag behind

In March 2016, the national unemployment rate was 5.0 percent, unchanged since the end of the fourth quarter in December 2015. From December 2015 to March 2016, 30 states and the District of Columbia saw their unemployment rates decline, while 14 states saw unemployment rise. While about half the states in the nation have returned to their respective pre-recession unemployment rates, conditions vary greatly across states and across racial and ethnic groups. In March, state unemployment rates ranged from a high of 6.6 percent in Alaska to a low of 2.5 percent in South Dakota. Nationally, African Americans had the highest unemployment rate in March, at 9.0 percent, followed by Latinos (5.6 percent), whites (4.3 percent), and Asians (4.0 percent).

State unemployment rates, by race and ethnicity

Following is an overview of racial unemployment rates and racial unemployment rate gaps by state for the first quarter of 2016. 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 first quarter of 2016, the white unemployment rate was lowest in South Dakota (1.4 percent) and highest in West Virginia (6.6 percent), as shown in the interactive map, which presents state unemployment rates by race and ethnicity. South Dakota also had the lowest white unemployment rate in the third and fourth quarters of 2015, while West Virginia has had the highest white unemployment rate for four consecutive quarters.

Interactive map

State unemployment rates, by race/ethnicity and overall, 2016Q1

State All White Black Hispanic Asian
California 5.5% 4.3% 10.7% 6.8% 3.9%
Alabama 6.2% 4.4% 10.8% NA NA
Alaska 6.6% 5.0% NA NA NA
Arizona 5.5% 4.1% NA 7.1% NA
Arkansas 4.2% 2.8% 10.3% NA NA
Colorado 3.0% 2.3% NA 5.3% NA
Connecticut 5.6% 4.0% NA NA NA
Delaware 4.6% 4.2% 5.4% NA NA
District of Columbia 6.5% 2.3% 12.7% 2.7% NA
Florida 5.0% 4.1% 7.9% 5.1% 3.1%
Georgia 5.4% 3.6% 8.5% 5.2% NA
Hawaii 3.1% 4.8% NA NA 2.6%
Idaho 3.9% 3.7% NA 5.4% NA
Illinois 6.4% 5.0% 14.1% 7.8% 3.3%
Indiana 4.8% 4.4% 7.7% NA NA
Iowa 3.7% 2.9% NA NA NA
Kansas 4.0% 3.3% NA 5.4% NA
Kentucky 5.7% 5.4% NA NA NA
Louisiana 6.0% 3.8% 10.6% NA NA
Maine 3.6% 3.5% NA NA NA
Maryland 4.7% 2.8% 8.5% NA NA
Massachusetts 4.5% 3.8% 7.0% 7.5% 3.4%
Michigan 4.8% 3.7% 11.0% NA NA
Minnesota 3.7% 2.9% NA NA NA
Mississippi 6.5% 5.1% 9.3% NA NA
Missouri 4.2% 3.7% NA NA NA
Montana 4.2% 4.0% NA NA NA
Nebraska 3.0% 2.2% NA NA NA
Nevada 6.0% 4.9% NA 6.8% 4.3%
New Hampshire 2.7% 2.8% NA NA NA
New Jersey 4.4% 3.9% 5.4% 6.0% 2.6%
New Mexico 6.4% 3.9% NA 6.8% NA
New York 4.8% 3.7% 7.2% 6.7% 4.8%
North Carolina 5.5% 4.4% 9.4% 4.4% NA
North Dakota 2.9% 2.6% NA NA NA
Ohio 5.0% 4.3% 9.5% NA NA
Oklahoma 4.2% 3.4% NA 6.0% NA
Oregon 4.8% 4.6% NA 5.3% NA
Pennsylvania 4.7% 3.9% 11.1% 7.1% NA
Rhode Island 5.4% 4.2% NA NA NA
South Carolina 5.6% 4.2% 9.4% NA NA
South Dakota 2.7% 1.4% NA NA NA
Tennessee 4.9% 4.4% 7.5% NA NA
Texas 4.4% 3.5% 6.5% 4.7% 4.1%
Utah 3.4% 3.5% NA 4.4% NA
Vermont 3.4% 3.3% NA NA NA
Virginia 4.1% 3.1% 7.0% 5.4% NA
Washington 5.8% 4.8% NA 7.8% 4.0%
West Virginia 6.4% 6.6% NA NA NA
Wisconsin 4.6% 3.7% NA NA NA
Wyoming 5.0% 4.7% 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

Copy the code below to embed this chart on your website.

As shown below in Table 1, which displays changes in state unemployment rates by race and ethnicity from the fourth quarter of 2007 to the first quarter of 2016, Wyoming is the state where the white unemployment rate is most elevated above its pre-recession level—2.1 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 24 states: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin. This is four more states than had reached this milestone in the last quarter. The white unemployment rate is within 0.5 percentage point of its pre-recession level in another 13 states.

Trends among African Americans

During the first quarter of 2016, the African American unemployment rate was lowest in Delaware and New Jersey (5.4 percent) and highest in Illinois (14.1 percent). Illinois was also the state with the highest black unemployment rate during the previous quarter. Since the fourth quarter of 2015, the state’s black unemployment rate has risen 1 percentage point as unemployment has increased statewide. Fifteen states had African American unemployment rates below 10 percent in the first quarter of 2016—in 11 of these states, the rate was lower than the first quarter national average for African Americans (8.8 percent).

As shown below in Table 2, which displays the black–white and Hispanic–white unemployment rate ratios in the first quarter of 2016, Delaware’s black–white unemployment rate gap was the smallest in the country. In that state, the black unemployment rate was 1.3 times the white rate, down from 1.9 times the white rate during the previous quarter. This change was due entirely to a significant drop in the state’s black unemployment rate during the first quarter. African Americans are about one-fifth of the workforce in Delaware, where employment increased 0.4 percent between December 2015 and March 2016. In New Jersey, the other state with the lowest first quarter black unemployment rate, the ratio was 1.4, which is virtually unchanged from the previous quarter (1.5). The largest gaps were in the District of Columbia and Arkansas, where the black unemployment rate was 5.5 and 3.6 times the white rate, respectively.

With regard to recovery, the African American unemployment rate is at or below its pre-recession level in nine states: Indiana, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas. But this numerical “recovery” must be put in proper context because with the exceptions of Texas, New York, New Jersey, and Tennessee, each of these states also had black unemployment rates that were among the highest in the nation before the recession. Of the states where the black unemployment rate has recovered, only Indiana, Texas, New York, New Jersey, and Tennessee have black unemployment rates lower than the first quarter national average for blacks. The black unemployment rate is within 0.5 percentage point of its pre-recession level in Delaware and Georgia. The black unemployment rate remains most elevated above its pre-recession level in Alabama (4.5 percentage points higher). Before the recession, the African American unemployment rate in Alabama was 5.3 percent—about half of what it is now.

Trends among Hispanics

The Hispanic unemployment rate was highest in Washington and Illinois (7.8 percent) and lowest in the District of Columbia (2.7 percent) and the states of North Carolina and Utah (4.4 percent). Since the fourth quarter of 2015, the Hispanic unemployment rate has risen in both Washington and Illinois, while North Carolina has had the lowest Hispanic unemployment rate for the last two quarters.

The Hispanic unemployment rate is at or below its pre-recession level in six states: California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, New York, and North Carolina. The Hispanic unemployment rate is within 0.5 percentage point of its pre-recession level in Nevada, Texas, and Utah. In the fourth quarter of 2007, Colorado, Florida, and Texas had Hispanic unemployment rates lower than the national average among Hispanics—a distinction they continue to hold. The Hispanic unemployment rate was most elevated above its pre-recession level in New Mexico (2.3 percentage points higher).

The Hispanic unemployment rate is the same as the white rate in North Carolina, while the Hispanic–white unemployment rate gap is largest in Colorado, where the Hispanic unemployment rate is 2.3 times the white rate. This ratio is up from the previous quarter (1.7) as a result of the white unemployment rate declining faster than the Hispanic unemployment rate.

Trends among Asians

The Asian unemployment rate was lowest in Hawaii and New Jersey (2.6 percent) and highest in New York (4.8 percent). Hawaii and New York were also the states with the lowest and highest Asian unemployment rates, respectively, during the fourth quarter of 2015. The Asian unemployment rate remains most elevated above pre-recession levels in New York (1.5 percentage points). The Asian unemployment rate was below the pre-recession levels in California and Illinois, and within 0.5 percentage point of the pre-recession level in Hawaii, Washington, and New Jersey.

Table 1

Change in state unemployment rates by race and ethnicity, 2007Q4–2016Q1 (percentage points)

State White Black Hispanic Asian
USA -0.1 0.2 0.1 0.2
Alabama 0.8 4.5 NA NA
Alaska 0.4 NA NA NA
Arizona 0.7 NA 1.2 NA
Arkansas -1.8 1.4 NA NA
California -0.4 0.6 -0.3 -0.9
Colorado -1.2 NA 0.0 NA
Connecticut 0.5 NA NA NA
Delaware 1.3 0.5 NA NA
District of Columbia 0.6 2.8 NA NA
Florida 0.1 1.5 -0.7 NA
Georgia 0.3 0.4 -1.9 NA
Hawaii 0.8 NA NA 0.1
Idaho 0.6 NA NA NA
Illinois 0.6 1.8 2.1 -0.2
Indiana 0.1 -3.7 NA NA
Iowa -0.5 NA NA NA
Kansas -0.3 NA NA NA
Kentucky 0.3 NA NA NA
Louisiana 1.4 1.9 NA NA
Maine -1.3 NA NA NA
Maryland -0.1 2.9 NA NA
Massachusetts -0.8 NA NA NA
Michigan -2.4 -4.6 NA NA
Minnesota -1.2 NA NA NA
Mississippi 1.5 -1.1 NA NA
Missouri -0.8 NA NA NA
Montana 0.3 NA NA NA
Nebraska -0.5 NA NA NA
Nevada 0.7 NA 0.4 1.3
New Hampshire -0.7 NA NA NA
New Jersey 0.0 -3.0 0.8 0.3
New Mexico 0.6 NA 2.3 NA
New York -0.1 -0.7 -0.3 1.5
North Carolina 0.4 1.2 -2.0 NA
North Dakota 0.5 NA NA NA
Ohio -0.2 -4.2 NA NA
Oklahoma 0.4 NA NA NA
Oregon -0.8 NA NA NA
Pennsylvania -0.3 3.9 NA NA
Rhode Island -1.1 NA NA NA
South Carolina 0.5 -1.7 NA NA
South Dakota -0.6 NA NA NA
Tennessee -0.1 -2.0 NA NA
Texas 0.1 -1.4 0.2 1.2
Utah 1.0 NA 0.5 NA
Vermont -0.9 NA NA NA
Virginia 0.1 1.6 1.7 NA
Washington 0.0 NA 1.9 0.2
West Virginia 1.9 NA NA NA
Wisconsin -0.6 NA NA NA
Wyoming 2.1 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

Copy the code below to embed this chart on your website.

Table 2

Black–white and Hispanic–white state unemployment rate ratios, 2016Q1

State Black–white ratio Hispanic–white ratio
USA 2.2 1.5
Alabama 2.5 NA
Alaska NA NA
Arizona NA 1.7
Arkansas 3.6 NA
California 2.5 1.6
Colorado NA 2.3
Connecticut NA NA
Delaware 1.3 NA
District of Columbia 5.5 1.2
Florida 1.9 1.2
Georgia 2.4 1.5
Hawaii NA NA
Idaho NA 1.5
Illinois 2.8 1.6
Indiana 1.8 NA
Iowa NA NA
Kansas NA 1.6
Kentucky NA NA
Louisiana 2.8 NA
Maine NA NA
Maryland 3.1 NA
Massachusetts 1.8 2.0
Michigan 2.9 NA
Minnesota NA NA
Mississippi 1.8 NA
Missouri NA NA
Montana NA NA
Nebraska NA NA
Nevada NA 1.4
New Hampshire NA NA
New Jersey 1.4 1.5
New Mexico NA 1.8
New York 2.0 1.8
North Carolina 2.1 1.0
North Dakota NA NA
Ohio 2.2 NA
Oklahoma NA 1.8
Oregon NA 1.1
Pennsylvania 2.9 1.8
Rhode Island NA NA
South Carolina 2.2 NA
South Dakota NA NA
Tennessee 1.7 NA
Texas 1.8 1.3
Utah NA 1.3
Vermont NA NA
Virginia 2.2 1.7
Washington NA 1.6
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

Copy the code below to embed this chart on your website.

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 to 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.

 

 


See related work on Race and Ethnicity | Jobs and Unemployment

See more work by Valerie Wilson