Large Jump in African American Unemployment Rate Brings It Back to Year-Ago Level

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the African American unemployment rate jumped 0.9 percentage points in January to 7.7 percent, putting it just a hair under the 7.8 percent rate of January, 2017. This was associated with a 0.6 percentage point drop in the employment rate. Typically the African American unemployment rate is twice the white unemployment rate. However, with the white rate dropping to 3.5 percent, it is now substantially higher.

This is disappointing since the 6.8 percent rate in December was the lowest on record. The increase for men was 0.9 percentage points to 7.5 percent. For women the increase was 0.8 percentage points to 6.6 percent, and for teens the rise was 1.4 percentage points to 24.3 percent.

The data for African Americans are highly erratic and it is likely that much of this change is driven by measurement error, but it is nonetheless discouraging to see this reported jump.