White Unemployment Rose More than Black Unemployment and No One Notices

May 09, 2020

One of the most striking items in a very striking employment report yesterday is that white unemployment has actually risen slightly more than black unemployment in this crisis. White unemployment has risen from 3.1 percent in February to 14.2 percent in April, a rise of 11.1 percentage points. Black unemployment rose from 5.8 percent to 16.7 percent, an increase of 10.9 percentage points. 

While the difference is small and surely statistically insignificant, it does go opposite the usual pattern in a downturn, in which blacks see their unemployment rate rise by twice as much, or more, than the increase in white unemployment. Unfortunately, the difference is probably not for a good reason. Blacks are more likely to be working at jobs where they are classified as essential workers and therefore endangering their health by staying at work through this crisis. 

That is not a pretty picture, but one that deserves attention.


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