Black-White Jobless Gap Remains Near Historic Lows Despite Pandemic


The black unemployment rate rose to 178 percent of white unemployment in August, up from 158 percent in July. Both black and white unemployment fell in August but white unemployment fell at a faster clip.

Despite the widening in August, the race gap in unemployment remains extremely narrow historically. For decades, black unemployment rarely fell below 200 percent of white unemployment outside of recessions and their aftermath, when white employment caught up a bit with black unemployment. In other words, the narrowing of the gap usually indicated that things were getting worse for everyone.

That changed in the Trump era. Strong levels of job creation and low levels of unemployment, coupled with a crackdown on illegal border crossing, helped push the gap narrower. In August of 2019, the gap shrank to its narrowest ever, around 159 percent.


Black-White Unemployment Gap Still Near Record Low

The chaos caused by the coronavirus pandemic saw an even deeper plunge in April to 117 percent as unemployment soared. This was an extreme version of the typical story of bad news narrowing.

The gap has expanded as the economy has reopened but still remains very narrow, indeed narrower than almost any time before the Trump presidency.