COVID Almost Eliminated the Black-White Unemployment Rate Gap, But Now It’s Back

For many decades the Black unemployment rate has traditionally been double the rate for Whites.  This racial gap existed in both good economic times and bad with only slight fluctuations in the ratio.

In February 2020, the month before the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in the United States, the Black unemployment rate was 6 percent. This was a historically low level, but it was still double the 3.0 percent unemployment rate for Whites.

When the pandemic hit and shut down many sectors of the economy, the unemployment rate for Blacks shot up to 16.7 percent in April 2020. But the White rate also increased significantly to 14.1 percent. The traditional 2-to-1 Black-White unemployment gap had been reduced. The BlacK unemployment rate was only 1.2 times the rate of Whites.

It did not take long for the racial gap to open up once again. By June, the White unemployment rate was down to 10.1 percent, while the Black rate was 15.3 percent. In November the Black unemployment rate was 1.7 times the rate for Whites. The latest data for February shows the Black unemployment rate at 1.8 times the rate for Whites.



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