In her latest analysis of state unemployment by race and ethnicity, EPI economist Valerie Wilson finds that, 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. West Virginia has had the highest white unemployment rate (6.6 percent) for four consecutive quarters. Illinois, meanwhile, has had the highest black unemployment rate (14.1 percent) for the second quarter in a row.
“While overall national unemployment is down, it does not feel that way for many groups and in many states,” said Wilson. “It’s easy to see why Americans are anxious about the economy, when you look at unemployment for African Americans in Illinois or white workers in West Virginia, for example.”
Other key findings include:
- Nationally, African Americans had the highest unemployment rate in March 2016, at 9.0 percent, followed by Latinos (5.6 percent), whites (4.3 percent), and Asians (4.0 percent).
- 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.
- The largest black-white unemployment rate ratios were in the District of Columbia and Arkansas, where the black unemployment rate was 5.5 and 3.6 times the white rate, respectively.
- 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.
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.