Black Americans leave the workforce despite a lower unemployment rate in July

August 6, 2021, 3:49 PM UTC

Black Americans saw a sizable drop in unemployment in July, but the decrease came as workers left the labor force, an indication that the jobs recovery remains uneven.

The jobless rate for Black Americans fell to 8.2%, the lowest level since March of 2020, and down from 9.2% in June, according to figures released Friday by the Department of Labor. Black men in particular saw a large decline.

Behind the lower rates is a drop in participation for both Black men and women, as well as Latina women aged 20 and over. Most other major groups, including White Americans of both sexes and Hispanic men, saw an increase in the ranks of workers last month. 

Monitoring the progress of minorities is key to assessing the economic recovery. The Federal Reserve has said that its maximum employment goal is “broad-based and inclusive,” and policy makers are looking at how different groups of Americans are rebounding from the pandemic crisis in considering future policy moves. 

Overall, the unemployment gap between Whites and Blacks narrowed, but rates for both Blacks and Hispanics remain above the national rate, which was 5.4% in July.

The Asian American unemployment rate is below the national level, at 5.3%. However, Asian joblessness was the farthest from pre-pandemic rates among the demographics tracked by the Labor Department. The prime-age participation rate—people age 25 to 54—reached a 12-year high in July for Asian Americans, the data also show.

Women saw improvements last month. The unemployment rate fell to 5.2% from 5.7% as the number of women in the labor force increased modestly and 649,000 more women became employed. The female labor force is still down nearly 1.7 million workers since the start of the pandemic, compared to a shortfall of 1.4 million men.

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