US unemployment fell in May—but not for Black people

A wealth generator for some.
A wealth generator for some.
Image: Reuters/Carlo Allegri
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The US unemployment rate fell from 14.7% in April to 13.3%* in May, defying forecasts for another month of worsening jobs figures and lifting stocks. But even in this, America has a stark racial gap.

While the unemployment rate for white Americans dropped from 14.2% to 12.4%, the unemployment rate for Black Americans was roughly unchanged at 16.8%, matching the high set in 1984. The rate was higher for Black women than for Black men, at 16.2% versus 15.3%.

Unemployment among Hispanics was even higher, at 17.6%, although this was down from 18.9% in April. For Asian Americans, the rate stayed relatively steady at 15%.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, unemployment rates for Black and Hispanic workers in the US had fallen to record lows. But the aggregate numbers wouldn’t capture the disparity seen in different US cities, where in many cases the racial gap was far wider than the national average.

*Note: According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, an error in how responses to the household survey were classified meant the unemployment rate would have been roughly 3 percentage points higher than reported. But to maintain data integrity, the BLS does not reclassify survey responses, so the official US unemployment rate stands. There also were misclassifications in the April survey, so the directional change in employment rates was not affected; the overall rate for May was lower than in April either way.