D.C.’s Black Unemployment Rate Remains Among Highest In The Country
May 18, 2018
By The 2030 Group
By: Sasha-Ann Simons
Despite a strengthening economy, the black unemployment rate is twice that of whites nationally, according to a new report by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).
A breakdown of unemployment rates by race and ethnicity in the District and the 22 states for which black unemployment rates were available shows that in the first quarter of 2018, the African American unemployment rate was highest in D.C., at 12.9 percent. That’s a decrease from 13.7 percent at the end of 2017. For comparison, during the same period of time, the highest rate of white unemployment at the state level was 5.2 percent, in West Virginia.
In the first quarter of 2018, D.C. was the only jurisdiction cited in the report with a black unemployment rate higher than 10 percent. And, as in the previous six quarters, the District had the largest black-white unemployment rate gap: a black person in D.C. is eight times more likely to be out of a job than a white person.
“White workers in D.C. are having great economic outcomes. It is a great place to be a white worker,” says Janelle Jones, EPI’s lead analyst for the quarterly report. “But if you are a black worker in D.C., you’re facing recession levels of unemployment.”
In Maryland, the black unemployment rate is three times the white unemployment rate, and in Virginia, blacks are twice as likely as whites to be unemployed.
“It really makes you think about the policies that are taking place inside the District that don’t cross state lines,” Jones says. “What is it about the makeup of D.C.’s economy, the way it hires, and how is that different from Virginia and Maryland that we’re seeing such discrepancies in unemployment rate?”
To draft the report, the EPI uses Census data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, including numbers from the department’s monthly Current Population Survey. The institute says it only reports data for groups that had “on average, a sample size of at least 700 in the labor force for each 6 month period,” because unemployment rates for smaller subgroups can’t be accurately estimated.
Jones says there was less national job data available on Hispanics and Asians. However, she found that the white unemployment rate in the District is half the Hispanic unemployment rate. And in March 2018, Jones says, the Asian unemployment rate was actually lower than that for whites.
The national unemployment rate at the end of March was 4.1 percent, unchanged from the end of the fourth quarter of 2017. From December to March, 25 states and the District saw their unemployment rates decline, seven states saw unemployment rates rise, and 18 states saw no change.
“As we’ve gone into a recovery period, we’re seeing that white unemployment rates are recovering at record speeds, while those for people of color are taking longer,” says Jones.