Black unemployment rate lowest in nearly 5 years

black unemployment rate

The unemployment rate for black Americans hit its lowest level since December 2008.

According to the government's latest jobs report, 12.6% of black Americans were unemployed. That's down from a high of 16.5% in August of 2011.

But the current unemployment rate for blacks is considerably higher than the rate of 7.4% for the overall population. Historically, the black unemployment rate has always been higher, largely due to long term structural trends that include a lower education level and a more limited social circle, according to Heidi Shierholz, an economist Economic Policy Institute.

Shierholz noted that the unemployment rate for blacks isn't falling any faster than it is for the population at large, which is also at its lowest rate in nearly five years.

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"The black population is not seeing different overall trends," said Shierholz.

Still, the unemployment rate for blacks was 13.7% in June. So the most recent move has been more dramatic. Shierholz noted that due to the smaller sample size of data, the swings in the unemployment rate for blacks can be more volatile.

Blacks are benefiting from the same forces that are driving unemployment down for the population at large -- a slowly improving economy that's producing a fair amount of new jobs. But many of them are lower wage service industry professions or part time positions.

Still, the good news is the black unemployment rate isn't falling because they are leaving the workforce in greater numbers. The labor force participation rate for blacks has remained relatively constant over the last few years, hovering between 61% and 62%.

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