The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Native Americans’ unemployment has been above 10 percent for five years now

(Economic Policy Institute)
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The Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians may have shared a meal at Plymouth in the early 1620s — an event experts say was not the first Thanksgiving — but members of the native tribes have rarely had a seat at the table since. And nowhere is that more apparent than their modern economic situation.

For the past two years, unemployment has been higher for only one other racial or ethnic group: blacks. Unemployment for Native Americans has remained above 10 percent for five years, weighing in at 11.3 percent for the first half of this year, according to the Economic Policy Institute, a think tank focused on the needs of low- and middle-income workers.

And Native American employment from 2009 to 2011 lags behind that of whites by anywhere from 5 percentage points in Mississippi to 32 percentage points in South Dakota, according to EPI’s analysis of data from 35 states. Nationally, the jobs gap was 13.4 percentage points between the two groups. Further research is needed to identify the reason behind the large state-to-state disparities, according to the EPI.

The interactive above shows the difference between the employment-to-population rates for American Indians aged 25-to-54 and whites in the same age group from 2009 to 2011. The data is based on an EPI analysis of other data. For more, check out EPI’s blog post on the issue.