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Black Unemployment Hits Record Low, Black-White Unemployment Gap Shrinks to Smallest Ever

The unemployment rate for African-Americans fell to the lowest level ever recorded in August, dropping from 6 percent to 5.5 percent.
One result: the persistent gap between white and black unemployment also narrowed to its smallest on record.

The unemployment ratio has averaged around 2 to 1 or so for decades, meaning the black unemployment rate is typically twice the white unemployment rate. In good times, the unemployment rate of whites and blacks falls but the gap remains. And in bad times, the unemployment rate for whites and black rises, but black unemployment typically remains around twice that of white employment.

A year ago, the black unemployment rate stood at 6.6 percent while the white unemployment rate was 3.4 percent, meaning black unemployment was 185 percent of white unemployment.

In August, the gap narrowed so that black unemployment was under 162 percent of white unemployment. That is the smallest gap ever in records going back to January 1972.

This is particularly remarkable because it comes at a time of remarkably low unemployment. Prior to the Trump era, the last time the gap fell below 170 percent was in August of 2009, when the black unemployment rate was 14.8 percent and the white unemployment rate was 8.9 percent. Back then the gap declined because white unemployment was increasing at a faster clip than the already sky-high black unemployment.

In other words, the decline in employment inequality now is undeniably the best on record because it comes in the context of falling unemployment.

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