State black–white unemployment gaps hold steady or widen


By Valerie Wilson

In the first quarter of 2019, African American workers had the highest unemployment rate nationally, at 6.7%, followed by Hispanic workers (at 4.7%) and Asian and white workers (both at 3.1%).1 This report provides a state-by-state breakdown of unemployment rates by race and ethnicity and racial/ethnic unemployment rate gaps for the first quarter of 2019.

While there have been improvements in prospects for black and Hispanic workers in some states, unemployment rates for these groups increased in the majority of states for which data are available and 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 16 states and in the District of Columbia, African American unemployment rates exceed white unemployment rates by a ratio of 2.0-to-1 or higher.
  • The District of Columbia has a black–white unemployment rate ratio of 5.7-to-1, while Missouri and Indiana have the highest ratios among states (3.2-to-1 and 3.1-to-1, respectively).
  • The highest African American unemployment rate is in the District of Columbia (11.6%), followed by Illinois (9.4%), Indiana (9.1%), Louisiana (8.5%), and Pennsylvania (8.4%). The highest Hispanic state unemployment rate is in Washington (8.9%), followed by Pennsylvania (7.5%), Arizona (6.6%), Connecticut (6.6%), and Oregon (6.4%). Meanwhile, the highest white state unemployment rate is 4.8%, in West Virginia.
  • The Hispanic unemployment rate is at or below its pre-recession level in 13 states (of the 16 states for which these data are available). There are two states in which the Hispanic unemployment rate is equal to or lower than the white rate (Georgia and Kansas, 0.9-to-1 each).
  • The largest gaps between Hispanic and white unemployment rates are in Connecticut (2.7-to-1) and in Nebraska, Pennsylvania, and Washington (2.4-to-1 each).


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