Economic Indicators | Wages, Incomes, and Wealth

Jobs Picture, September 5, 2008 – Special Issue

September 5, 2008

Job market much worse compared to year ago for blacks, Hispanics

by Algernon Austin

African American unemployment reaches double digits

For the first time in three years, the African American unemployment rate has entered the double digits. In August, the black unemployment reached 10.6%, up 0.9 percentage points from July and up 2.9 points from a year ago. In other words, more than half a million more blacks were unable to find work last month compared to August 2007.

This August’s jump in the African American unemployment rate was driven by an increase in black women’s unemployment, which increased 1.7 percentage points, from 8.3% in July to 10.0% in August. A year ago (August 2007), the black female unemployment rate was 7.5%. This year, black men’s unemployment rate declined slightly from July to August, going from 11.3% to 11.2%, but it is still significantly higher than it was just a year ago when it was a much lower at 7.9%.

Young black adults and recent college graduates (25-29 year olds) are finding it difficult to find work. Their unemployment has risen from 5.1% in August 2007 to 6.9% last month. As the economic downturn proceeds, it will continue to have a disproportionate effect on African Americans.

Hispanic unemployment up 2.5 points

The Hispanic unemployment rate for August is up 2.5 percentage points over the past year, growing from 5.5% in August 2007 to 8.0% in August 2008. This percentage point change translates to almost 600,000 more Hispanics unemployed.

Hispanic women’s unemployment rate is higher than Hispanic men’s. In August, 8.3% of Hispanic women were unemployed compared with 7.7% of Hispanic men. Hispanic men, however, have seen a larger increase in their unemployment rate over the past year—relative to August 2007. Hispanic men’s unemployment increased 3.1 percentage points, while Hispanic women’s has grown 1.6 percentage points in the past year.

Hispanic workers, like everyone else, have been hurt by the economic downturn, but because of the large share of Hispanics working in the construction industry, the collapse of the housing market has been especially detrimental for these workers.

For the full analysis of the Bureau of Labor Statistics report for August 2008, read EPI’s latest Jobs Picture.

In an additional analysis, EPI shows that the recent extensions in Unemployment Insurance have not contributed to the increase in the unemployment rate.

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The Economic Policy Institute JOBS PICTURE is published each month upon release of the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ employment report.

EPI offers same-day analysis of income, price, employment, and other economic data released by U.S. government agencies. For more information, contact EPI at 202-775-8810, or visit us on the Web at