Keep the Jobs Coming! People of Color Have Actually Benefited More from Job Growth This Year

Today’s jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that payroll employment has increased by more than 200,000 jobs for nine consecutive months (since February 2014) and the average rate of growth this year has been 232,000 jobs per month, compared to 197,000 jobs per month over the same period last year.

At this stage in the recovery, these numbers demonstrate an important point about the importance of pursuing full employment in lowering unemployment among people of color. The point to be made here is that the longer the economy continues to add jobs, the greater the impact on labor market outcomes for people of color. Over the past twelve months (since October 2013), African Americans and Hispanics have seen larger relative improvements than whites in all the major labor market indicators— unemployment rate, labor force participation, and employment-population (EPOP) ratio.  And, most if not all of those improvements have taken place this year (since January 2014). The following chart shows these relative changes over the period of interest.

Starting with the unemployment rate, whites have seen a 1.5 percentage point decline since October 2013, compared to 2.1 and 2.2 percentage points for African Americans and Latinos, respectively.  While improvements in the unemployment rate can be distorted by people leaving the labor force, this has not been the case for people of color. The labor force participation rates for African Americans and Latinos have increased over the past year, but declined for whites.  In fact, as whites have left the labor force at a higher rate since January 2014, African Americans have entered at a greater rate.

Figure A

Percentage-point change in unemployment rate, labor force participation rate, and employment-to-population ratio, by race and ethnicity, Oct. 2013–Oct. 2014

Measure  Race/ethnicity Oct. 2013–Oct. 2014 Jan. 2014–Oct. 2014
Unemployment rate White -1.5 -0.9
Black -2.1 -1.2
Hispanic -2.2 -1.6
Labor force participation rate  White -0.1 -0.5
Black 0.6 0.9
Hispanic 0.7 0.3
Employment-to-population ratio  White 0.9 0.2
Black 1.8 1.5
Hispanic 2.2 1.3
ChartData Download data

The data below can be saved or copied directly into Excel.

Source: EPI analysis of Current Population Survey public data series

Copy the code below to embed this chart on your website.

Finally, the share of working age African Americans and Latinos with a job (the EPOP) has increased by at least twice as much as it has for whites since October of last year—2.2 percentage points for Latinos, 1.8 percentage points for African Americans and 0.9 percentage points for whites.  Nearly all of the increase for African Americans has taken place since January, driven predominantly by increased employment among black men.  Since January, black men’s EPOP has increased 2.5 percentage points compared to just 0.6 percentage points for black women.

Despite this year’s positive labor market developments for people of color, considerable employment gaps remain across race and ethnic groups.  While the Hispanic unemployment rate (6.8 percent) is within two percentage points of the white rate (4.8 percent), the African American unemployment rate (10.9 percent) is 6.1 percentage points higher.  We clearly have farther to go to reduce racial unemployment disparities, but there is no doubt that the benefits of more recent job growth are disproportionately accruing to people of color.