Economic Indicators | Race and Ethnicity

African American and Hispanic unemployment rates are higher than white unemployment rates in every state at the end of 2017

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Press release

In the fourth quarter of 2017, African American workers had the highest unemployment rate nationally, at 7.3 percent, followed by Hispanic (4.8 percent), Asian (3.4 percent), and white workers (3.3 percent).1

This report provides a state-by-state breakdown of unemployment rates by race and ethnicity and racial/ethnic unemployment rate gaps for the fourth quarter of 2017. It shows that while there have been state-by-state improvements in prospects for black and Hispanic workers, their unemployment rates remain high relative to those of white workers. Following are some key highlights of the report:

  • While the African American unemployment rate is at or below its pre-recession level in 17 states (of the 22 states—and the District of Columbia—for which these data are available), in 18 states and the District of Columbia, African American unemployment rates exceed white unemployment rates by a ratio of 2-to-1 or higher.
  • The District of Columbia has a black–white unemployment rate ratio of 7.8-to-1, while South Carolina and Michigan have the highest ratios among states (3.2-to-1 and 3.0-to-1, respectively).
  • The highest African American unemployment rate is in the District of Columbia (13.7 percent), followed by Michigan (10.8 percent). The highest Hispanic state unemployment rate is in Connecticut (8.3 percent). In contrast, the highest white state unemployment rate is 5.3 percent, in West Virginia.
  • While the Hispanic unemployment rate is at or below its pre-recession level in 12 states (of the 16 states for which these data are available), there is no state where the Hispanic unemployment rate is lower than the white rate.
  • In three states and the District of Columbia, Hispanic unemployment rates exceed white unemployment rates by a ratio of 2-to-1 or higher (Connecticut, 2.3-to-1; District of Columbia, 2.2-to-1; Massachusetts, 2.2-to-1, and Arizona, 2.1-to-1).

Background

In December 2017, the national unemployment rate was 4.1 percent, a slight decrease from 4.2 percent at the end of the third quarter of 2017.2 State unemployment rates in December ranged from a low of 2.0 percent in Hawaii to 7.3 percent in Alaska.3 According to a previous EPI analysis of unemployment by state, from September to December 2017, 30 states and the District of Columbia saw their unemployment rates decline, 17 states saw unemployment rates rise, and three 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 only report estimates 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).

Trends among white workers

In the fourth quarter of 2017, the white unemployment rate was lowest in Hawaii (1.6 percent) and highest in West Virginia (5.3 percent), as shown in the interactive map and underlying data table, which present state unemployment rates by race and ethnicity. Before the fourth quarter of 2017, South Dakota had the lowest unemployment rate for white workers for nine consecutive quarters.

State unemployment rates, by race/ethnicity and overall, 2017Q4

State All White Black Hispanic Asian
Alabama 3.5% 2.6% 6.2% NA NA
Alaska 7.2% 4.9% NA NA NA
Arizona 4.4% 2.6% NA 5.6% NA
Arkansas 3.7% 3.6% 4.7% NA NA
California 4.6% 3.9% 7.6% 5.5% 3.3%
Colorado 2.9% 2.2% NA 4.2% NA
Connecticut 4.6% 3.6% NA 8.3% NA
Delaware 4.7% 3.4% 7.9% NA NA
Washington D.C. 6.3% 1.8% 13.7% 3.8% NA
Florida 3.6% 2.8% 6.4% 3.9% 2.1%
Georgia 4.3% 3.0% 6.9% 3.7% NA
Hawaii 2.1% 1.6% NA NA 1.8%
Idaho 2.9% 2.6% NA 5.0% NA
Illinois 4.9% 3.9% 9.7% 5.0% 4.6%
Indiana 3.7% 3.2% 7.9% NA NA
Iowa 2.9% 2.5% NA NA NA
Kansas 3.5% 2.8% NA 3.8% NA
Kentucky 4.7% 4.5% NA NA NA
Louisiana 4.7% 3.1% 8.3% NA NA
Maine 3.3% 3.1% NA NA NA
Maryland 3.9% 2.7% 5.6% NA NA
Massachusetts 3.6% 3.0% 5.9% 6.5% 3.9%
Michigan 4.6% 3.7% 10.8% NA NA
Minnesota 3.2% 2.6% NA NA NA
Mississippi 4.8% 3.6% 6.7% NA NA
Missouri 3.5% 3.0% 6.1% NA NA
Montana 4.0% 3.3% NA NA NA
Nebraska 2.7% 1.9% NA NA NA
Nevada 5.0% 4.3% NA 5.0% NA
New Hampshire 2.7% 2.3% NA NA NA
New Jersey 5.0% 3.6% 9.5% 4.8% 7.1%
New Mexico 6.1% 4.0% NA 6.3% NA
New York 4.7% 4.0% 6.8% 5.8% 3.6%
North Carolina 4.3% 3.3% 7.7% 4.2% NA
North Dakota 2.6% 1.8% NA NA NA
Ohio 4.9% 3.9% 9.2% NA NA
Oklahoma 4.2% 3.4% NA 4.0% NA
Oregon 4.2% 3.9% NA 5.0% NA
Pennsylvania 4.7% 4.1% 8.0% 5.9% NA
Rhode Island 4.3% 3.4% NA NA NA
South Carolina 4.0% 2.6% 8.3% NA NA
South Dakota 3.5% 2.1% NA NA NA
Tennessee 3.1% 3.0% 4.0% NA NA
Texas 3.9% 3.0% 6.5% 4.2% 2.5%
Utah 3.2% 2.7% NA 4.4% NA
Vermont 2.9% 2.6% NA NA NA
Virginia 3.7% 2.8% 5.6% 4.6% 2.7%
Washington 4.5% 3.8% NA 5.5% 4.2%
West Virginia 5.3% 5.3% NA NA NA
Wisconsin 3.2% 2.9% NA NA NA
Wyoming 4.2% 3.8% NA 6.0% 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 to the fourth quarter of 2017. The white unemployment rate remained most elevated above its pre-recession level in Wyoming: 1.2 percentage points higher than in the fourth quarter of 2007. The white unemployment rate is at or below its pre-recession level in 38 states. The largest declines in white unemployment since the end of 2007 have occurred in Michigan (down 2.5 percentage points), Hawaii (down 2.4 percentage points), Rhode Island (down 1.9 percentage points), Maine (down 1.7 percentage points), Massachusetts (down 1.6 percentage points), and Vermont (down 1.6 percentage points). The white unemployment rate is above but within 0.5 percentage points of its pre-recession level in nine states.

Table 1

Change in state unemployment rates by race and ethnicity from 2007Q4 to 2017Q4 (percentage points)

State White Black Hispanic Asian
USA -0.7 -1.3 -1.1 -0.1
Alabama -1.0 0.0 NA NA
Alaska 0.3 NA NA NA
Arizona -0.7 NA -0.3 NA
Arkansas -1.1 -4.2 NA NA
California -0.8 -2.5 -1.7 -1.5
Colorado -1.3 NA -1.0 NA
Connecticut 0.1 NA 0.1 NA
Delaware 0.4 2.9 NA NA
District of Columbia 0.1 3.9 NA NA
Florida -1.2 0.1 -1.9 NA
Georgia -0.2 -1.2 -3.4 NA
Hawaii -2.4 NA NA -0.7
Idaho -0.5 NA NA NA
Illinois -0.5 -2.6 -0.7 1.2
Indiana -1.0 -3.6 NA NA
Iowa -0.9 NA NA NA
Kansas -0.9 NA NA NA
Kentucky -0.6 NA NA NA
Louisiana 0.7 -0.3 NA NA
Maine -1.7 NA NA NA
Maryland -0.1 0.0 NA NA
Massachusetts -1.6 NA NA NA
Michigan -2.5 -4.7 NA NA
Minnesota -1.5 NA NA NA
Mississippi 0.0 -3.6 NA NA
Missouri -1.5 -5.7 NA NA
Montana -0.4 NA NA NA
Nebraska -0.7 NA NA NA
Nevada 0.1 NA -1.4 NA
New Hampshire -1.2 NA NA NA
New Jersey -0.3 1.1 -0.4 4.8
New Mexico 0.8 NA 1.7 NA
New York 0.2 -1.2 -1.2 0.3
North Carolina -0.8 -0.5 -2.2 NA
North Dakota -0.3 NA NA NA
Ohio -0.6 -4.4 NA NA
Oklahoma 0.4 NA NA NA
Oregon -1.5 NA NA NA
Pennsylvania -0.1 0.8 NA NA
Rhode Island -1.9 NA NA NA
South Carolina -1.1 -2.8 NA NA
South Dakota 0.1 NA NA NA
Tennessee -1.5 -5.6 NA NA
Texas -0.4 -1.4 -0.3 -0.4
Utah 0.2 NA 0.5 NA
Vermont -1.6 NA NA NA
Virginia -0.3 0.2 0.9 NA
Washington -1.1 NA -0.4 0.4
West Virginia 0.6 NA NA NA
Wisconsin -1.3 NA NA NA
Wyoming 1.2 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 23 states and the District of Columbia. During the fourth quarter of 2017, among states, the African American unemployment rate was lowest in Tennessee (4.0 percent) and highest in Michigan (10.8 percent); in the District of Columbia, it was 13.7 percent. The District of Columbia also had the highest black unemployment rate during the previous four quarters.

In the fourth quarter of 2017, of the 23 states with African American unemployment rate estimates, all but one state had black unemployment rates below 10 percent; in 12 of these states, the rate was at or below the fourth quarter national average for African American workers (7.3 percent).

As shown in Table 2, which displays the black–white and Hispanic–white unemployment rate ratios in the fourth quarter of 2017, Arkansas and Tennessee had the smallest black–white rate gaps of the 23 states and the District of Columbia. In those states, black unemployment was 1.3 times the white rate. In the fourth quarter of 2017, as in the previous five quarters, the largest gap was in the District of Columbia, where the black unemployment rate was 7.8 times the white rate. The next highest unemployment ratios were in South Carolina (3.2-to-1), Michigan (3.0-to-1), and Louisiana (2.7-to-1).

Table 2

Black–white and Hispanic–white state unemployment rate ratios, 2017Q4

State Black–white ratio Hispanic–white ratio
USA 2.2 1.5
Alabama 2.4  NA
Alaska  NA  NA
Arizona  NA 2.1
Arkansas 1.3  NA
California 1.9 1.4
Colorado  NA 1.9
Connecticut  NA 2.3
Delaware 2.3  NA
District of Columbia 7.8 2.2
Florida 2.3 1.4
Georgia 2.3 1.2
Hawaii  NA  NA
Idaho  NA 1.9
Illinois 2.5 1.3
Indiana 2.4  NA
Iowa  NA  NA
Kansas  NA 1.3
Kentucky  NA  NA
Louisiana 2.7  NA
Maine  NA  NA
Maryland 2.1  NA
Massachusetts 2.0 2.2
Michigan 3.0  NA
Minnesota  NA  NA
Mississippi 1.9  NA
Missouri 2.0  NA
Montana  NA  NA
Nebraska  NA  NA
Nevada  NA 1.2
New Hampshire  NA  NA
New Jersey 2.6 1.3
New Mexico  NA 1.6
New York 1.7 1.5
North Carolina 2.4 1.3
North Dakota  NA  NA
Ohio 2.4  NA
Oklahoma  NA 1.2
Oregon  NA 1.3
Pennsylvania 2.0 1.4
Rhode Island  NA  NA
South Carolina 3.2  NA
South Dakota  NA  NA
Tennessee 1.3  NA
Texas 2.2 1.4
Utah  NA 1.6
Vermont  NA  NA
Virginia 2.0 1.6
Washington  NA 1.4
West Virginia  NA  NA
Wisconsin  NA  NA
Wyoming  NA 1.6

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 2017 was at or below its pre-recession level in 17 states: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas. (Data on the change in black unemployment over this period are available for 22 states and the District of Columbia.) However, all states except for Maryland and Texas have black labor force participation rates that were lower in the fourth quarter of 2017 than at the end of 2007, indicating that the return to pre-recession levels of unemployment in these states was not a full recovery for African American workers because not all discouraged job-seekers have returned to the market.5

Further, of the states in which black unemployment rates have recovered, eight have black unemployment rates higher than the fourth quarter national average for African Americans (7.3 percent): California, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, and South Carolina. The black unemployment rate remains most elevated above its pre-recession level in the District of Columbia (3.9 percentage points higher); among states, Delaware holds this distinction (2.9 percentage points higher).

Trends among Hispanic workers

Hispanic unemployment rate estimates are available for 23 states and the District of Columbia, 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 2017, the Hispanic unemployment rate was highest in Connecticut (8.3 percent) and lowest in Georgia (3.7 percent). Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Mexico were the only states with Hispanic unemployment rates above 6.0 percent in the fourth quarter.

The Hispanic unemployment rate is at or below its pre-recession level in 12 states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Texas, and Washington. The Hispanic unemployment rate is above but within 1.0 percentage point of its pre-recession level in Connecticut, Utah, and Virginia. For the third quarter in a row, the Hispanic unemployment rate was most elevated above its pre-recession level in New Mexico (1.7 percentage points).

In every state for which data are available, the Hispanic unemployment rate was higher than the white unemployment rate. The ratio of Hispanic unemployment to white unemployment was lowest in Georgia (1.2-to-1), Nevada (1.2-to-1), and Oklahoma (1.2-to-1). In three states and the District of Columbia the Hispanic-white unemployment rate ratio was at least 2-to1: Connecticut (2.3-to-1), District of Columbia (2.2-to-1), Massachusetts (2.2-to-1), and Arizona (2.1-to-1).

Trends among Asian workers

Asian unemployment rate estimates are available for 10 states, and data on the change in Asian unemployment rates since the fourth quarter of 2007 are available for seven states. The Asian unemployment rate was lowest in Hawaii (1.8 percent). The highest Asian unemployment rate was in New Jersey (7.1 percent). The Asian unemployment rate was at or below its pre-recession level in California, Hawaii, and Texas. The Asian unemployment rate was more than 2 percentage points above its pre-recession level in only one state: New Jersey (4.8 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.

2. “Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey: Unemployment Rate,” Series Id. LNS14000000 [online data table], U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, December, 2017.

3. State Employment and Unemployment—December 2017,” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 23, 2018.

4. Most States End 2017 on the Right Path, but Pockets of Weakness Remain,” press release, Economic Policy Institute, January 23, 2018.

5. EPI analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) data and Current Population Survey (CPS) data.

 


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