Jobs report shows falling unemployment rate for Black workers

May 03, 2024

Jobs report shows falling unemployment rate for Black workers

Unemployment rates were low in April, and the unemployment gap between white and Black workers is narrowing.

BY Pavithra Mohan

One of the most notable findings from the jobs report released this morning is that job creation has finally slowed down, with employers adding 175,000 jobs in April. The shift comes after a period of steady job growth and low unemployment, exceeding the expectations of economists who had warned that the labor market would eventually cool off.

The unemployment rate has now remained under 4% for 27 months, a streak that the U.S. economy has not seen in over 50 years. While the unemployment rate inched up slightly to 3.9%, experts have said there’s no indication that the labor market is weakening at an alarming rate. Despite ongoing layoffs in industries like tech, job cuts have remained low on the whole, and the majority of employers are retaining their workers.

Black worker unemployment rate is decreasing

With this jobs report, the employment picture also looks more positive for Black workers, who experienced the highest rates of unemployment during the pandemic. In March, the unemployment rate had jumped to 6.4% for Black workers; for Black women, in particular, the increase was especially significant, from 4.4% to 5.6%.

There had been an uptick in the overall unemployment rate for Black workers since December—but last month, the unemployment figure dropped back down to 5.6%. (The lowest Black unemployment rate on record was in April 2023, when the number dipped below 5% for the first time.) For Black women, unemployment dropped to 5%, and Black men saw a significant drop from 6.2% to 5.2%.


A systemic gap

The unemployment rate among Black workers has historically been twice as high as the rate for white workers, due to systemic racial disparities; economists have said that Black workers are often the first to be fired when economic conditions change and companies conduct layoffs.

That gap, however, seems to have narrowed as unemployment has dropped from its peak during the pandemic: As of April, the unemployment rate for white workers is at 3.5%, which means the ratio of Black to white unemployment is only about 1.6. But it’s not clear how that dynamic might shift if the job market continues to slow in the coming months.

Jobs report shows falling unemployment rate for Black workers


Pavithra Mohan is a staff writer for Fast Company. 

Fast Company