Valerie Wilson
Valerie Wilson is the director of the Economic Policy Institute’s Program on Race, Ethnicity, and the Economy at EPI. (NNPA FILE PHOTO)
Valerie Wilson is the director of the Economic Policy Institute’s Program on Race, Ethnicity, and the Economy at EPI. (NNPA FILE PHOTO)

By Freddie Allen
NNPA Senior Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Last month’s Black unemployment rate (10.9 percent) was more than twice the White unemployment rate (4.8 percent), but when it comes to key measures in the labor market, Blacks and Latinos have experienced greater gains than Whites over the past year, according to a recent report by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).

Valerie Wilson, the director of the Program on Race, Ethnicity, and the Economy at EPI, a nonpartisan think tank working to improve economic conditions for low- and middle-income families, said that not only have the unemployment rates for people of color declined faster than the jobless rate for Whites over the last year, the labor force participation, the measure of people that have jobs or currently looking for work, has also increased, pulling more people into the labor market.

Wilson said that the employment-population ratio, the share of the population of people that have a job, for Blacks and Latinos increased more than the employment-population ratio for Whites over the last 12 months.

“That shows that strong job growth matters when we talk about improving employment outcomes for people of color,” said Wilson. “It would be especially beneficial for these groups if the economy continues to proceed on this path.”

According to the latest jobs report from the Labor Department, the economy added 214,000 jobs in October and is averaging 229,000 jobs added per month this year.  The national unemployment rate edged down to 5.8 percent in October.

Wilson said that the White labor force participation rate continues to shrink, partly because the White labor force is older and some are retiring, while Black and Latino workers tend to be younger.

Wilson said that Black men saw most of the labor market gains that Black workers experienced over the past 12 months.

The unemployment rate for Black men over 20 years-old decreased from 11 percent in September to 10.7 percent in October and the jobless rate for White men fell from 4.4 percent to 4.2 percent.

The jobless rate for Black women ticked down 0.2 points, from 9.6 percent in September to 9.4 percent in October and the unemployment rate for White women also declined 0.2 points, from 4.8 percent to 4.6 percent over the same period.

However, since October 2013, the labor force participation rate for Black men has increased significantly compared to White men. The participation rate for Black men increased by 1.1 percent, while White men saw their participation in the labor force shrink by 0.3 percent.

Even though the employment-population ratio for Black women over 20 years-old increased in the last 12 months, the labor force participation rate for Black women fell from 61.6 percent in October 2013 to 61.4 percent last month. The participation rate for White women increased by 0.1 percent from October 2013 to October 2014.

A recent analysis of state-by-state unemployment rates by EPI shed more light on the economic recovery for Blacks in the United States.

“The African American unemployment rate was lowest in Virginia (8.2 percent) and highest in Nevada (16.8 percent) and Michigan (16.7 percent),” wrote Wilson in a post for EPI’s website. “By way of comparison, although 8.2 percent is the lowest Black unemployment rate in the country, it is still a percentage point above the highest White unemployment rate (Nevada’s).”

During an interview about the state-by-state analysis, Wilson said that Nevada was a state that was bad for Blacks and for Whites and that a lot of the problems plaguing Nevada’s economy are related to the housing crisis and the value of real estate plummeting.

In 2012, CNN reported that Nevada led the country in foreclosures with a shocking 1 in 6 houses in foreclosure, compared to 1 in 69 houses, nationally.

“People are experiencing the recovery much differently based on their race and their location, and for far too many people, particularly people of color, the recovery has yet to occur,” said Wilson. “Until the recovery reaches these families, policymakers should use every available tool to put more people back to work.”


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