35 states saw their unemployment rates decrease in the fourth quarter of 2016, during which unemployment rates ranged from a high of 7.5 percent in New Mexico to a low of 2.6 percent in South Dakota. Nationally, African Americans had the highest unemployment rate in the fourth quarter, at 8.2 percent, followed by Hispanics (5.7 percent), whites (3.9 percent), and Asians (3.7 percent), according to EPI Economic Analyst Janelle Jones in her latest quarterly analysis of state unemployment by race and ethnicity.
“The economy has made considerable progress recovering from the damage of the Great Recession,” said Jones. “But it’s clear that the recovery is not reaching people in every community. In no state was black unemployment lower than the national level of unemployment for whites. Policymakers should keep their foot off the brakes until the labor market tightens and the recovery reaches everybody.”
Additional findings include:
- The white unemployment rate was lowest in South Dakota (1.5 percent) and highest in West Virginia (5.3 percent). South Dakota has had the lowest white unemployment rate in the preceding five quarters, while West Virginia has had the highest white unemployment rate for seven consecutive quarters.
- African American unemployment was lowest in Delaware (4.9 percent) and highest in the District of Columbia (13.0 percent). For the first three quarters of 2016, the highest black unemployment rate had been in Illinois, but that state’s black unemployment rate fell by 2.9 percentage points, to 11.3 percent, in the fourth quarter of 2016.
- The Hispanic unemployment rate was highest in Pennsylvania (11.3 percent) and lowest in Utah (3.1 percent). Pennsylvania has had the highest Hispanic unemployment rate for two consecutive quarters, and was the only state with a Hispanic unemployment rate above 10 percent. Utah replaces Virginia as the state with the lowest Hispanic unemployment rate.
- The Asian unemployment rate was lowest in Illinois (2.2 percent) and highest in Nevada (6.7 percent). Nevada has had the highest Asian unemployment rate for two consecutive quarters, and was one of only two states (the other being New Jersey) with an Asian unemployment rate above 6 percent.