The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) released a new report this week that takes a deeper look at unemployment, particularly when it comes to racial disparities in the recovery from the Great Recession. The report, written by Valerie Wilson, argues that the projected decline in unemployment for 2015 won't lift African Americans out of the employment crater caused by the recession.
Five years into recovery from the Great Recession, unemployment rates are finally nearing their 2007 levels, but the pace of recovery varies by state for different racial and ethnic groups. In the fourth quarter of 2014, the national white and Hispanic unemployment rates were each within 1 percentage point of prerecession levels while the black unemployment rate was 2.4 percentage points higher than it was at the end of 2007. Although long-term unemployment was down significantly for all groups in 2014, it remained above historic norms, revealing weaknesses in the labor market (Josh Bivens and Heidi Shierholz, 2014).
Here are seven key findings of the report:
- In the last quarter of 2014, the unemployment rates by race were: 4.4% for Asians, 4.5% for whites, 6.7% for Hispanics and 11.0% for African Americans.
- The national unemployment rate for African Americans, 11%, is higher than the overall unemployment rate at the peak of the recession (9.9%).
- Unemployment rates are projected to decline modestly through the end of 2015 for all races.
- After the Great Recession, unemployment rates are finally nearing 2007 levels, but the recovery varies by state and by racial and ethnic group. White and Hispanic unemployment rates are within 1% of their 2007 level, while the rate for African Americans was 2.4% higher than the prerecession level.
- The unemployment rate for African Americans is expected to fall to 10.4% by the fourth quarter of 2015, significantly higher than the prerecession level of 8.6%. Significantly decreases in the unemployment rate for African Americans are expected in only two states (California and Illinois). Only one state is expected to have a significant drop in the Hispanic unemployment rate (Rhode Island). No states are expected to see a significant drop in the white unemployment rate.
- The white unemployment rate has significantly declined in 33 states since 2013, while the white employment-to-population (EPOP) ratio increased in six states. For Hispanics, the unemployment rate dropped in 14 states, while the EPOP increased in nine states. For African Americans, the rate dropped in 15 states and the EPOP increased in six states.
- The share of workers who were unemployed long term declined for all races after 2013. Hispanics saw a decline in 4.8%, Asians 4.3%, whites 4.1% and African Americans 3.8%.
Read the full report.