On Friday morning, the Department of Labor announced that the national unemployment rate had dropped to 4.4 percent, the lowest figure in almost exactly 10 years, since shortly before the onset of the recession.
As always, though, there’s a division in the numbers that’s worth pointing out. While the unemployment rate for whites was below the national figure, at 3.8 percent, the figures for black and Hispanic Americans were both above. The rate for Hispanics was 5.2 percent — and for blacks, 7.9 percent.
Since the Department of Labor began breaking out unemployment numbers by race and ethnicity, the unemployment rates for black and Hispanic Americans have never been below that for whites. Not in any single month.
What’s more, the rate for black Americans has never been less than 66 percent higher than that for whites — and since January 1974, it has been at least twice the rate for whites 80 percent of the time.
Earlier this week, the National Urban League released its annual “State of Black America” report, looking, among other things, at the economic disparities between America’s white and black populations. That report prompted us to wonder about how the disparity in unemployment might break down by congressional district.
Using data from 2015 provided by the Census Bureau, we performed the same calculation as above. Excluding any district with a population too small to be significant, those ratios look like this across the continental United States. The darker the color, the higher unemployment is relative to the white population in those districts.
There’s no strong correlation between that ratio and anything else. There’s no link between how a congressional district voted in 2016 and the ratio of black- or Hispanic-to-white unemployment. There’s also no link between that ratio and the density of the population of those racial or ethnic groups.
According to that census data, no congressional district saw a lower ratio of black-to-white unemployment than Hispanic-to-white. The highest ratio of Hispanic-to-white unemployment — that is to say, where Hispanic unemployment was worse relative to that of whites — was in the 6th District of Indiana, where Hispanic unemployment was 36 percent higher than that of whites. The lowest black-to-white ratio was in New York’s 21st, where black unemployment was 42 percent higher.
While the extremes above are all Republican districts, that’s likely a function of the fact that there are more Republican districts than Democratic ones. If we break out the figures above by party, there’s no clear pattern.
In other words, the discrepancy in unemployment between black and white Americans is worse than that between Hispanics and whites everywhere in the country — and there’s no immediately obvious pattern for where it’s more or less dramatic.
The only obvious pattern is the one noted at the outset: The unemployment rate for black Americans is always substantially higher than that for whites.