Key numbers ? 2019 Q1

South Dakota State with the lowest white unemployment rate (1.6%)
Tennessee State with the lowest black unemployment rate (4.9%)
Georgia State with the lowest Hispanic unemployment rate (2.4%)
Nevada State with the lowest Asian unemployment rate (1.4%)

2019 Q1?? Updated May 2019

Latest data: Black–white unemployment gaps widen or remain unchanged in majority of states

By?Valerie Wilson

While there have been improvements in prospects for black and Hispanic workers in some states, unemployment rates for these groups increased in the majority of states for which data are available and remain high relative to those of white workers. Following are some key highlights of the report:

Background

In March 2019, the national unemployment rate was 3.8%, down slightly from 3.9% at the end of the fourth quarter of 2018.2 State unemployment rates in March ranged from a low of 2.3% in North Dakota to 6.5% in Alaska.3 According to a previous EPI analysis of unemployment by state, from December 2018 to March 2019, 18 states saw their unemployment rates decline, 23 states and the District of Columbia saw unemployment rates rise, and nine states saw no change.4

State unemployment rates, by race and ethnicity

EPI analyzes state unemployment rates by race and ethnicity, and racial/ethnic unemployment rate gaps, on a quarterly basis to generate a sample size large enough to create reliable estimates of unemployment rates by race and ethnicity at the state level. We report estimates only for states for which the sample size of these subgroups is large enough to create an accurate estimate. For this reason, the number of states included in our map and data tables varies based on the analysis performed (unemployment rate, change in unemployment rate since the fourth quarter of 2007, and ratio of African American or Hispanic unemployment rate to white unemployment rate).

Interactive Map

State unemployment rates, by race/ethnicity and overall, 2019Q1

State All White Black Hispanic Asian
Alabama 3.7% 2.6% 6.7% NA NA
Alaska 6.5% 3.9% NA NA NA
Arizona 5.1% 4.1% NA 6.6% NA
Arkansas 3.7% 3.1% 6.8% 4.5% NA
California 4.2% 3.4% 5.4% 5.5% 3.1%
Colorado 3.6% 2.9% NA 5.1% NA
Connecticut 3.8% 2.4% NA 6.6% NA
Delaware 3.4% 2.8% 6.2% NA NA
Washington D.C. 5.5% 2.0% 11.6% 4.6% NA
Florida 3.5% 3.0% 5.6% 3.3% 2.9%
Georgia 3.9% 2.7% 6.5% 2.4% NA
Hawaii 2.7% 2.9% NA NA 2.2%
Idaho 2.9% 2.6% NA 3.6% NA
Illinois 4.3% 3.5% 9.4% 3.7% 3.1%
Indiana 3.5% 2.9% 9.1% NA NA
Iowa 2.4% 2.0% NA NA NA
Kansas 3.4% 2.9% NA 2.8% NA
Kentucky 4.1% 3.7% NA NA NA
Louisiana 4.8% 3.0% 8.5% NA NA
Maine 3.5% 3.2% NA NA NA
Maryland 3.7% 2.8% 6.0% NA NA
Massachusetts 3.0% 2.7% 5.1% 4.2% 2.6%
Michigan 4.0% 3.4% 6.7% NA NA
Minnesota 3.1% 2.6% NA NA NA
Mississippi 4.8% 2.8% 8.2% NA NA
Missouri 3.2% 2.3% 7.5% NA NA
Montana 3.8% 3.6% NA NA NA
Nebraska 2.8% 2.2% NA 5.3% NA
Nevada 4.3% 3.9% NA 5.4% 1.4%
New Hampshire 2.4% 2.1% NA NA NA
New Jersey 4.0% 3.5% 5.7% 4.3% 4.4%
New Mexico 5.1% 4.3% NA 4.9% NA
New York 3.9% 3.3% 7.0% 4.7% 2.3%
North Carolina 3.9% 2.7% 6.7% 5.0% NA
North Dakota 2.4% 2.1% NA NA NA
Ohio 4.6% 4.1% 7.6% NA NA
Oklahoma 3.3% 2.3% NA 3.4% NA
Oregon 4.4% 3.8% NA 6.4% NA
Pennsylvania 4.0% 3.1% 8.4% 7.5% NA
Rhode Island 3.9% 2.9% NA NA NA
South Carolina 3.2% 2.4% 5.0% NA NA
South Dakota 2.9% 1.6% NA NA NA
Tennessee 3.2% 2.8% 4.9% NA NA
Texas 3.8% 3.2% 5.4% 4.0% 2.9%
Utah 3.0% 2.9% NA 3.6% NA
Vermont 2.4% 2.3% NA NA NA
Virginia 2.9% 2.0% 5.6% 3.1% 2.3%
Washington 4.5% 3.7% NA 8.9% 4.6%
West Virginia 5.2% 4.8% NA NA NA
Wisconsin 2.9% 2.8% NA NA NA
Wyoming 3.9% 3.6% NA NA NA

Note: The map reports unemployment rates only for state subgroups with sample sizes large enough to create accurate estimates.

Source: EPI analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) data and Current Population Survey (CPS) data

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Trends among white workers

In the first quarter of 2019, the white unemployment rate was lowest in South Dakota (1.6%) and highest in West Virginia (4.8%), as shown in the interactive map and underlying data table, which present state unemployment rates by race and ethnicity.

Table 1 displays changes in state unemployment rates by race and ethnicity from the fourth quarter of 2007—the last quarter before the Great Recession—to the first quarter of 2019. The white unemployment rate remained most elevated above its pre-recession level in New Mexico and Wyoming, at 1.0 percentage point higher than in the fourth quarter of 2007. The white unemployment rate is at or below its pre-recession level in 43 states. The largest declines in white unemployment since the end of 2007 have occurred in Michigan (down 2.7 percentage points), Rhode Island (down 2.5 percentage points), Missouri (down 2.2 percentage points), and Massachusetts (down 1.9 percentage points). The white unemployment rate is above but within 0.5 percentage points of its pre-recession level in the District of Columbia, North Dakota, Utah, and West Virginia.

Table 1

Change in state unemployment rates by race and ethnicity from 2007Q4 to 2019Q1 (percentage points)

State White Black Hispanic Asian
United States -0.9 -1.9 -1.2 -0.4
Alabama -1.0 0.5 NA NA
Alaska -0.7 NA NA NA
Arizona 0.7 NA 0.7 NA
Arkansas -1.6 -2.1 NA NA
California -1.4 -4.6 -1.7 -1.8
Colorado -0.6 NA -0.1 NA
Connecticut -1.1 NA -1.6 NA
Delaware -0.1 1.3 NA NA
District of Columbia 0.3 1.7 NA NA
Florida -1.0 -0.7 -2.5 NA
Georgia -0.6 -1.6 -4.7 NA
Hawaii -1.1 NA NA -0.4
Idaho -0.4 NA NA NA
Illinois -0.8 -2.9 -2.1 -0.3
Indiana -1.4 -2.3 NA NA
Iowa -1.3 NA NA NA
Kansas -0.7 NA NA NA
Kentucky -1.3 NA NA NA
Louisiana 0.7 -0.2 NA NA
Maine -1.6 NA NA NA
Maryland 0.0 0.4 NA NA
Massachusetts -1.9 NA NA NA
Michigan -2.7 -8.8 NA NA
Minnesota -1.5 NA NA NA
Mississippi -0.9 -2.1 NA NA
Missouri -2.2 -4.3 NA NA
Montana -0.1 NA NA NA
Nebraska -0.5 NA NA NA
Nevada -0.4 NA -1.0 -1.6
New Hampshire -1.4 NA NA NA
New Jersey -0.4 -2.8 -0.9 2.1
New Mexico 1.0 NA 0.4 NA
New York -0.5 -1.0 -2.4 -1.1
North Carolina -1.3 -1.6 -1.4 NA
North Dakota 0.1 NA NA NA
Ohio -0.5 -6.1 NA NA
Oklahoma -0.6 NA NA NA
Oregon -1.6 NA NA NA
Pennsylvania -1.1 1.2 NA NA
Rhode Island -2.5 NA NA NA
South Carolina -1.4 -6.1 NA NA
South Dakota -0.4 NA NA NA
Tennessee -1.7 -4.6 NA NA
Texas -0.2 -2.5 -0.4 -0.1
Utah 0.4 NA -0.3 NA
Vermont -1.9 NA NA NA
Virginia -1.1 0.3 -0.6 NA
Washington -1.2 NA 3.0 0.8
West Virginia 0.1 NA NA NA
Wisconsin -1.5 NA NA NA
Wyoming 1.0 NA NA NA

Note: The table reports data only for state subgroups with sample sizes large enough to create accurate estimates.

Source: EPI analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) data and Current Population Survey (CPS) data

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Trends among African American workers

African American unemployment rate estimates are available for 23 states and the District of Columbia. Among states, the unemployment rate for African Americans was lowest in Tennessee (4.9%) and South Carolina (5.0%), and highest in Illinois (9.4%); in the District of Columbia, it was 11.6%. The District of Columbia also had the highest black unemployment rate during the previous 10 quarters.

In the first quarter of 2019, of the 23 states with African American unemployment rate estimates (excluding D.C.), all had black unemployment rates below 10%; in 14 of these states, the rate was at or below the first-quarter national average for African Americans (6.7%).

As shown in Table 2, which displays the black–white and Hispanic–white unemployment rate ratios in the first quarter of 2019, California and New Jersey had the smallest black–white rate gaps of the 23 states and the District of Columbia. Black unemployment in California and in New Jersey was 1.6 times the white unemployment rate. Meanwhile, the largest gap was in the District of Columbia, where the black unemployment rate was 5.7 times the white rate. The next highest unemployment ratios were in Missouri (3.2-to-1), Indiana (3.1-to-1), Mississippi (3.0-to-1), and Virginia (2.9-to-1 each).

The black unemployment rate in the first quarter of 2019 was at or below its pre-recession level in 17 states: Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas. (Data on the change in black unemployment over this period are available for 22 states and the District of Columbia.)

Table 2

Black–white and Hispanic–white state unemployment rate ratios, 2019Q1

State Black-white ratio Hispanic-white ratio
United States 2.1 1.5
Alabama 2.6 NA
Alaska NA NA
Arizona NA 1.6
Arkansas 2.2 1.5
California 1.6 1.6
Colorado NA 1.7
Connecticut NA 2.7
Delaware 2.2 NA
District of Columbia 5.7 2.2
Florida 1.9 1.1
Georgia 2.4 0.9
Hawaii NA NA
Idaho NA 1.4
Illinois 2.6 1.0
Indiana 3.1 NA
Iowa NA NA
Kansas NA 0.9
Kentucky NA NA
Louisiana 2.8 NA
Maine NA NA
Maryland 2.1 NA
Massachusetts 1.9 1.6
Michigan 2.0 NA
Minnesota NA NA
Mississippi 3.0 NA
Missouri 3.2 NA
Montana NA NA
Nebraska NA 2.4
Nevada NA 1.4
New Hampshire NA NA
New Jersey 1.6 1.2
New Mexico NA 1.2
New York 2.1 1.4
North Carolina 2.4 1.8
North Dakota NA NA
Ohio 1.9 NA
Oklahoma NA 1.5
Oregon NA 1.7
Pennsylvania 2.7 2.4
Rhode Island NA NA
South Carolina 2.1 NA
South Dakota NA NA
Tennessee 1.8 NA
Texas 1.7 1.3
Utah NA 1.2
Vermont NA NA
Virginia 2.9 1.6
Washington NA 2.4
West Virginia NA NA
Wisconsin NA NA
Wyoming NA NA

Note: The table reports data only for state subgroups with sample sizes large enough to create accurate estimates.

Source: EPI analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) data and Current Population Survey (CPS) data

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Trends among Hispanic workers

Hispanic unemployment rate estimates are available for 24 states and the District of Columbia, and data on the change in Hispanic unemployment rates since the fourth quarter of 2007 are available for 16 states. In the first quarter of 2019, among states, the Hispanic unemployment rate was highest in Washington (8.9%), Pennsylvania (7.5%), Arizona (6.6%), Connecticut (6.6%), and Oregon (6.4%). The rate was lowest in Georgia (2.4%) and Kansas (2.8%).

The Hispanic unemployment rate is at or below its pre-recession level in 13 states: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Utah, and Virginia. The Hispanic unemployment rate was most elevated above its pre-recession level in Washington (3.0 percentage points).

In two states, Georgia and Kansas, the Hispanic unemployment rate was lower than the white unemployment rate, with a rate ratio of 0.9-to-1 in each of these states. The ratio of Hispanic unemployment to white unemployment was highest in Connecticut (2.7-to-1) and in Nebraska, Pennsylvania, and Washington (2.4-to-1 each).

Trends among Asian workers

Asian unemployment rate estimates are available for 11 states, and data on the change in Asian unemployment rates since the fourth quarter of 2007 are available for eight states. The Asian unemployment rate was lowest in Nevada (1.4%) and highest in Washington (4.6%). The Asian unemployment rate was at or below its pre-recession level in California, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New York, and Texas. In two states the Asian unemployment rate was above its pre-recession level: New Jersey (2.1 percentage points higher) and Washington (0.8 percentage points higher).

Methodology

The unemployment rate estimates in this report are based on the Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) and the Current Population Survey (CPS) from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The overall state unemployment rate is taken directly from the LAUS. CPS six-month ratios are applied to LAUS data to calculate the rates by race and ethnicity. For each state subgroup, we calculate the unemployment rate using the past six months of CPS data. We then find the ratio of this subgroup rate to the state unemployment rate using the same period of CPS data. This gives us an estimate of how the subgroup compares with the state overall.

While this methodology allows us to calculate unemployment-rate estimates at the state level by race and ethnicity by quarter, it is less precise at the national level than simply using the CPS. Thus, the national-level estimates may differ from direct CPS estimates.

In many states, the sample sizes of particular subgroups are not large enough to create accurate estimates of their unemployment rates. We report data only for groups that had, on average, a sample size of at least 700 in the labor force for each six-month period.

Endnotes

1. EPI analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) data and Current Population Survey (CPS) data.

2. Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey: Unemployment Rate,” Series Id. LNS14000000 [online data table], U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 10, 2019.

3. State Employment and Unemployment—March 2019,” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 10, 2019.

4. State Jobs and Unemployment” (economic indicators), Economic Policy Institute, May 10, 2019.

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