Though the national African American unemployment rate dipped below 10 percent for the first time in seven years during the second quarter of 2015, the lowest African American unemployment rate in the country (6.9 percent in Tennessee) is essentially the same as the highest white unemployment rate (7.0 percent in West Virginia), according to the latest analysis from EPI economist Valerie Wilson. Wilson uses a unique analysis of Current Population Survey data and Local Area Unemployment Statistics program data to update her quarterly estimate of state unemployment rates by race and ethnicity in over 20 states.
In the second quarter of 2015, the African American unemployment rate was highest in the District of Columbia (14.2 percent) and lowest in Tennessee (6.9 percent), which also had the nation’s smallest black-white unemployment rate gap—the black unemployment rate was 1.2 times the white rate as both groups saw improvements over the last quarter. The African American unemployment rate was below 10 percent in 11 states and was at or below its pre-recession level in eight states, up from two states in the fourth quarter of 2014: Michigan, Indian, Ohio, Tennessee, Mississippi, Texas, Illinois, and Missouri.
“Even though the African American unemployment rate has returned to pre-recession levels in eight states, each of these states also had African American unemployment levels that were among the highest in the nation before the recession, with the exception of Texas,” said Wilson. “African Americans are still unemployed at a higher rate than their white counterparts in almost every state. We need policies that look beyond simply reducing unemployment to pre-recession levels as an end goal.”
In June 2015, African Americans had the highest national unemployment rate at 9.5 percent, over twice as high as the white unemployment rate (4.6 percent). The white unemployment rate was lowest in Nebraska (1.8 percent) and highest in West Virginia (7.0 percent), and was at or below its pre-recession level in 14 states.
Other key findings include:
- The Hispanic unemployment rate was highest in Connecticut (12.0 percent) and lowest in Georgia (4.4 percent) for the second consecutive quarter.
- The Hispanic unemployment rate was at or below its pre-recession level in Georgia and Texas.
- The Hispanic unemployment rate was the same as the white rate in three states: Georgia, Oregon, and Kansas.
- The Asian unemployment rate was lowest in New Jersey (2.5 percent) and highest in Nevada (5.2 percent).