Economic Indicators | Race and Ethnicity

Economic Indicators State unemployment by race and ethnicity

In the fourth quarter of 2019, African American workers had the highest unemployment rate nationally, at 5.7%, followed by Hispanic workers (at 4.1%), white workers (at 3.0%), and Asian workers (at 2.7%).1 This report provides a state-by-state breakdown of estimated unemployment rates by race and ethnicity and racial/ethnic unemployment rate gaps for the fourth quarter of 2019 (three-month averages).


Key numbers • 2019 Q4

West Va. and Ky. States with the highest white unemployment rates (4.7% and 4.2%)
Miss., Pa., and Ohio States with the highest black unemployment rates (9.1%, 8.1%, and 8.0%)
Pa. and N.C. States with the highest Hispanic unemployment rates (6.4% and 6.2%)
Nev. State with the highest Asian unemployment rate (4.8%)

2019 Q4 • Updated March 2020

Latest data: Black, white, and Hispanic unemployment rates defy national lows in some Southern and Rust Belt states

By Valerie Wilson

Between the third and fourth quarters of 2019, employment prospects for black workers improved in the majority of states for which data are available. While the gap between the black and white unemployment rates narrowed in 10 of the 22 states for which data are available, black unemployment remains high relative to that of other workers throughout the United States. Black and white unemployment rates were closest to parity in Maryland, Indiana, and South Carolina. Following are some key highlights of the report:

  • The African American unemployment rate is at or below its pre-recession level in 19 states (these data are available for 21 states and the District of Columbia). However, in 10 states and in the District of Columbia, African American unemployment rates exceed white unemployment rates by a ratio of 2.0-to-1 or higher.
  • The District of Columbia has a black–white unemployment rate ratio of 6.5-to-1, while Mississippi has the highest ratio among states (2.6-to-1) and Maryland has the lowest ratio (1.2-to-1).
  • The highest African American unemployment rate is in the District of Columbia (11.2%), followed by Mississippi (9.1%), Pennsylvania (8.1%), Ohio (8.0%), and Louisiana (7.9%). The highest Hispanic state unemployment rate is in Pennsylvania (6.4%), followed by North Carolina (6.2%), Louisiana (5.9%), New Mexico (5.6%), and Washington (5.5%). Meanwhile, the highest white state unemployment rate is 4.7%, in West Virginia.
  • The Hispanic unemployment rate is at or below its pre-recession level in 14 states (of the 16 states for which these data are available). The Hispanic unemployment rate is lower than the white rate in Arkansas (0.6-to-1) and Nevada (0.9-to-1).
  • The largest gaps between Hispanic and white unemployment rates are in North Carolina (2.1-to-1) and Massachusetts (2.0-to-1 each).

Background

In December 2019, the national unemployment rate was 3.5%, the same as at the end of the third quarter (September) of 2019.2 State unemployment rates in December ranged from a low of 2.3% in South Carolina, Utah and Vermont to 6.1% in Alaska.3 According to a previous EPI analysis of unemployment by state, from September 2019 to December 2019, 25 states and the District of Columbia saw their unemployment rates decline, 19 states saw unemployment rates rise, and six states saw no change.4

State unemployment rates, by race and ethnicity

EPI analyzes state unemployment rates by race and ethnicity, and racial/ethnic unemployment rate gaps, on a quarterly basis to generate a sample size large enough to create reliable estimates of unemployment rates by race and ethnicity at the state level. We report estimates only for states for which the sample size of these subgroups is large enough to create an accurate estimate. For this reason, the number of states included in our map and data tables varies based on the analysis performed (unemployment rate, change in unemployment rate since the fourth quarter of 2007, and ratio of African American or Hispanic unemployment rate to white unemployment rate). All data reported by state and race/ethnicity for the fourth quarter 2019 are three-month averages of October, November, and December 2019.

Trends among white workers

In the fourth quarter of 2019, the white unemployment rate was lowest in South Dakota and the District of Columbia (both 1.7%) and highest in West Virginia (4.7%) and Kentucky (4.2%), as shown in the interactive map and underlying data table, which present state unemployment rates for the fourth quarter by race and ethnicity.

Interactive Map

State unemployment rates, by race/ethnicity and overall, 2019Q4

State All White Black Hispanic Asian
Alabama 2.7% 2.5% 3.6% NA NA
Alaska 6.1% 3.6% NA NA NA
Arizona 4.7% 4.0% NA 4.7% NA
Arkansas 3.6% 3.2% 6.0% 2.0% NA
California 3.9% 3.2% 5.5% 4.3% 3.5%
Colorado 2.6% 2.5% NA 2.7% NA
Connecticut 3.7% 3.3% NA 3.2% NA
Delaware 3.8% 2.9% 7.3% NA NA
Washington D.C. 5.3% 1.7% 11.2% NA NA
Florida 3.1% 2.4% 5.9% 2.9% 2.9%
Georgia 3.3% 2.4% 5.3% 2.9% NA
Hawaii 2.6% 2.2% NA NA 2.5%
Idaho 2.9% 2.5% NA 4.8% NA
Illinois 3.8% 3.1% 7.9% 3.9% 2.0%
Indiana 3.2% 3.0% 3.7% NA NA
Iowa 2.6% 2.4% NA NA NA
Kansas 3.1% 2.8% NA 2.7% NA
Kentucky 4.3% 4.2% NA NA NA
Louisiana 4.7% 3.1% 7.9% 5.9% NA
Maine 2.8% 2.4% NA NA NA
Maryland 3.6% 3.4% 4.2% NA NA
Massachusetts 2.9% 2.6% 3.8% 5.2% 0.6%
Michigan 4.0% 3.7% 6.8% NA NA
Minnesota 3.3% 2.8% NA NA NA
Mississippi 5.6% 3.5% 9.1% NA NA
Missouri 3.2% 2.9% NA NA NA
Montana 3.4% 3.1% NA NA NA
Nebraska 3.1% 2.4% NA NA NA
Nevada 4.0% 3.9% NA 3.4% 4.8%
New Hampshire 2.6% 2.4% NA NA NA
New Jersey 3.4% 3.0% 5.3% 3.3% 3.3%
New Mexico 4.8% 3.3% NA 5.6% NA
New York 4.0% 3.8% 5.4% 5.0% 1.8%
North Carolina 3.8% 2.9% 5.5% 6.2% NA
North Dakota 2.5% 2.1% NA NA NA
Ohio 4.2% 3.4% 8.0% NA NA
Oklahoma 3.4% 2.6% NA 4.6% NA
Oregon 3.9% 3.7% NA 4.1% NA
Pennsylvania 4.3% 3.7% 8.1% 6.4% NA
Rhode Island 3.5% 3.1% NA NA NA
South Carolina 2.4% 2.3% 2.9% NA NA
South Dakota 3.1% 1.7% NA NA NA
Tennessee 3.3% 2.8% 5.7% NA NA
Texas 3.4% 2.6% 5.0% 4.1% 1.7%
Utah 2.4% 2.2% NA 3.0% NA
Vermont 2.3% 2.3% NA NA NA
Virginia 2.6% 2.1% 3.9% 3.8% 2.1%
Washington 4.4% 4.0% NA 5.5% 1.9%
West Virginia 4.9% 4.7% NA NA NA
Wisconsin 3.3% 2.7% NA NA NA
Wyoming 3.7% 3.3% NA NA NA

 

Note: The map reports unemployment rates only 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 1 displays changes in state unemployment rates by race and ethnicity from the fourth quarter of 2007—the last quarter before the Great Recession—to the fourth quarter of 2019. The white unemployment rate remained most elevated above its pre-recession level in Wyoming and Louisiana (both 0.8 percentage points higher) and in Arizona and Maryland, both at 0.6 percentage points higher than in the fourth quarter of 2007. The white unemployment rate is at or below its pre-recession level in 45 states and in the District of Columbia. The largest declines in white unemployment since the end of 2007 have occurred in Michigan (down 2.5 percentage points), Maine (down 2.4 percentage points), Rhode Island (down 2.2 percentage points), and Massachusetts (down 2.0 percentage points). The white unemployment rate is above but within 0.5 percentage points of its pre-recession level in North Dakota.

Table 1

Change in state unemployment rates by race and ethnicity from 2007Q4 to 2019Q4 (percentage points)

White Black Hispanic Asian
United States -1.0 -2.9 -1.8 -0.8
Alabama -1.1 -2.7 NA NA
Alaska -1.0 NA NA NA
Arizona 0.6 NA -1.2 NA
Arkansas -1.5 -2.9 NA NA
California -1.6 -4.5 -2.8 -1.3
Colorado -1.0 NA -2.5 NA
Connecticut -0.2 NA -5.0 NA
Delaware 0.0 2.3 NA NA
Washington D.C. 0.0 1.3 NA NA
Florida -1.6 -0.5 -2.9 NA
Georgia -0.9 -2.8 -4.2 NA
Hawaii -1.8 NA NA 0.0
Idaho -0.5 NA NA NA
Illinois -1.2 -4.4 -1.9 -1.5
Indiana -1.3 -7.7 NA NA
Iowa -0.9 NA NA NA
Kansas -0.9 NA NA NA
Kentucky -0.8 NA NA NA
Louisiana 0.8 -0.7 NA NA
Maine -2.4 NA NA NA
Maryland 0.6 -1.5 NA NA
Massachusetts -2.0 NA NA NA
Michigan -2.5 -8.7 NA NA
Minnesota -1.3 NA NA NA
Mississippi -0.1 -1.2 NA NA
Missouri -1.6 NA NA NA
Montana -0.6 NA NA NA
Nebraska -0.2 NA NA NA
Nevada -0.3 NA -3.1 1.8
New Hampshire -1.1 NA NA NA
New Jersey -0.9 -3.1 -1.9 1.0
New Mexico 0.0 NA 1.0 NA
New York 0.0 -2.5 -2.0 -1.6
North Carolina -1.1 -2.7 -0.3 NA
North Dakota 0.1 NA NA NA
Ohio -1.2 -5.6 NA NA
Oklahoma -0.4 NA NA NA
Oregon -1.7 NA NA NA
Pennsylvania -0.5 0.9 NA NA
Rhode Island -2.2 NA NA NA
South Carolina -1.4 -8.2 NA NA
South Dakota -0.3 NA NA NA
Tennessee -1.7 -3.8 NA NA
Texas -0.8 -2.9 -0.4 -1.2
Utah -0.3 NA -1.0 NA
Vermont -1.9 NA NA NA
Virginia -0.9 -1.4 0.1 NA
Washington -0.9 NA -0.4 -1.9
West Virginia 0.0 NA NA NA
Wisconsin -1.5 NA NA NA
Wyoming 0.8 NA NA NA

Note: The table reports data only 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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Trends among African American workers

African American unemployment rate estimates are available for 22 states and the District of Columbia. Among states, the unemployment rate for African Americans was lowest in South Carolina (2.9%) and Alabama (3.6%), and highest in Mississippi (9.1%), Pennsylvania (8.1%), and Ohio (8.0%); in the District of Columbia, it was 11.2%. The District of Columbia also had the highest black unemployment rate during the previous 13 quarters.

In the fourth quarter of 2019, of the 22 states with African American unemployment rate estimates (excluding D.C.), all had black unemployment rates below 10%; in 13 of these states, the rate was at or below the fourth-quarter national average for African Americans (5.7%).

As shown in Table 2, which displays the black–white and Hispanic–white unemployment rate ratios in the fourth quarter of 2019, Maryland, Indiana, and South Carolina had the smallest black–white rate gaps of the 22 states and the District of Columbia. Black unemployment in Maryland was 1.2 times the white unemployment rate in that state, while in both Indiana and South Carolina the black unemployment rate was 1.3 times the white unemployment rate. Meanwhile, the largest gap was in the District of Columbia, where the black unemployment rate was 6.5 times the white rate. The next highest unemployment ratios were in Mississippi (2.6-to-1), Delaware, Florida, Illinois, and Louisiana (all 2.5-to-1).

Table 2

Black–white and Hispanic–white state unemployment rate ratios, 2019Q4

Black–white ratio Hispanic–white ratio
United States 1.9 1.4
Alabama 1.4 NA
Alaska NA NA
Arizona NA 1.2
Arkansas 1.8 0.6
California 1.7 1.4
Colorado NA 1.1
Connecticut NA 1.0
Delaware 2.5 NA
Washington D.C. 6.5 NA
Florida 2.5 1.2
Georgia 2.2 1.2
Hawaii NA NA
Idaho NA 1.9
Illinois 2.5 1.2
Indiana 1.3 NA
Iowa NA NA
Kansas NA 1.0
Kentucky NA NA
Louisiana 2.5 1.9
Maine NA NA
Maryland 1.2 NA
Massachusetts 1.4 2.0
Michigan 1.9 NA
Minnesota NA NA
Mississippi 2.6 NA
Missouri NA NA
Montana NA NA
Nebraska NA NA
Nevada NA 0.9
New Hampshire NA NA
New Jersey 1.8 1.1
New Mexico NA 1.7
New York 1.4 1.3
North Carolina 1.9 2.1
North Dakota NA NA
Ohio 2.4 NA
Oklahoma NA 1.8
Oregon NA 1.1
Pennsylvania 2.2 1.7
Rhode Island NA NA
South Carolina 1.3 NA
South Dakota NA NA
Tennessee 2.0 NA
Texas 2.0 1.6
Utah NA 1.3
Vermont NA NA
Virginia 1.8 1.8
Washington NA 1.4
West Virginia NA NA
Wisconsin NA NA
Wyoming NA NA

 

Note: The table reports data only 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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The black unemployment rate in the fourth quarter of 2019 was below its pre-recession level in 19 states: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. Since the end of 2007, the black unemployment rate has declined most in Michigan (down 8.7 percentage points), South Carolina (down 8.2 percentage points), Indiana (down 7.7 percentage points) and Ohio (down 5.6 percentage points)—states with some of the highest black unemployment rates in the nation prior to the Great Recession. (Data on the change in black unemployment over this period are available for 21 states and the District of Columbia.)

Trends among Hispanic workers

Hispanic unemployment rate estimates are available for 24 states and data on the change in Hispanic unemployment rates since the fourth quarter of 2007 are available for 16 states. In the fourth quarter of 2019, among states, the Hispanic unemployment rate was highest in Pennsylvania (6.4%), North Carolina (6.2%), Louisiana (5.9%), New Mexico (5.6%), and Washington (5.5%). The rate was lowest in Arkansas (2.0%), Colorado (2.7%), and Kansas (2.7%).

The Hispanic unemployment rate is below its pre-recession level in 14 states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Utah, and Washington. The Hispanic unemployment rate was most elevated above its pre-recession level in New Mexico (1.0 percentage points); it declined most in Connecticut (down 5.0 percentage points), Georgia (down 4.2 percentage points), and Nevada (down 3.1 percentage points).

The Hispanic unemployment rate was lower than the white unemployment rate in Arkansas (0.6-to-1) and Nevada (0.9-to-1). The ratio of Hispanic unemployment to white unemployment was highest in North Carolina (2.1-to-1) and in Massachusetts (2.0-to-1 each).

Trends among Asian workers

Asian unemployment rate estimates are available for 11 states, and data on the change in Asian unemployment rates since the fourth quarter of 2007 are available for eight states. The Asian unemployment rate was lowest in Massachusetts (0.6%) and highest in Nevada (4.8%). The Asian unemployment rate was at or below its pre-recession level in California, Hawaii, Illinois, New York, Texas, and Washington. The Asian unemployment rate was above its pre-recession level in Nevada (1.8 percentage points higher) and New Jersey (1.0 percentage points higher).

Methodology

The unemployment rate estimates in this report 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 and ethnicity 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 sizes of particular subgroups are not large enough to create accurate estimates of their unemployment rates. We report data only for groups that had, on average, a sample size of at least 700 in the labor force for each six-month period.

Endnotes

1. EPI analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) data and Current Population Survey (CPS) data. Figures are three-month averages.

2. Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey: Unemployment Rate,” Series Id. LNS14000000 [online data table], U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, accessed March 2, 2020.

3. State Employment and Unemployment—December 2019,” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, accessed March 2, 2020.

4. State Jobs and Unemployment” (economic indicators, December 2019), Economic Policy Institute, accessed March 11, 2020.


See related work on Race and Ethnicity | Jobs and Unemployment