African-American workers continued to make notable employment gains in 2015, even as employment growth for whites and Hispanics slowed. The share of African-American adults with a job (i.e., the black employment-to-population ratio, or EPOP) has increased 2.5 percentage points since 2013—more than whites (0.5 percentage points) and Hispanics (1.6 percentage points). Over half of the increase in the African-American EPOP (1.4 percentage points) occurred in 2015, a slight acceleration from the previous year (in which the black EPOP increased by 1.1 percentage points). Meanwhile, employment gains for whites and Hispanics slowed from 2014 to 2015: the increase in the share of white adults with a job fell from 0.3 to 0.2 percentage points and the increase in the share of Hispanic adults with a job fell from 1.2 to 0.4 percentage points.
Employment gains for blacks accelerated in 2015, indicating the recovery is not over yet: Percentage-point change in employment-to-population ratio, by race and ethnicity, 2013–2014 and 2014–2015
Source: EPI analysis of Current Population Survey public data series
Though African-American workers have benefited from solid job growth over the last couple years, they also suffered greater losses during the Great Recession and continue to have a lower EPOP than whites and Hispanics. At the end of 2015, the black EPOP was 56.4 percent, slightly lower than whites (59.9 percent) and Hispanics (61.4 percent). This reflects the fact that African-American workers are often hardest hit during a recession and do not fully recover without robust job growth that significantly reduces the national unemployment. This is why it is important for the Federal reserve to prioritize very low rates of unemployment until all groups have had a chance to fully recovery and wages begin to grow.