African-American unemployment doubles state average

The gap has actually narrowed since before the Great Recession

Actors stand in a job line. (Shutterstock)

Actors stand in a job line. (Shutterstock)

By Ted Cox

African Americans in Illinois have double the unemployment rate of the state as a whole, according to a new national study by the Economic Policy Institute.

African-American unemployment is 8.8 percent in Illinois, which places third-highest in the nation behind only the District of Columbia at 11.8 percent and Pennsylvania at 8.9 percent.

According to the EPI study released this month, which focused on labor statistics in the fourth quarter of last year ending in December, the Illinois unemployment rate was 4.3 percent: 3.4 percent for whites, 3.8 percent for both Hispanics and Asian Americans.

Illinois isn’t alone in that. According to the study, African-American unemployment is more than double the rate for whites in 14 states and the District of Columbia.

The national unemployment rate was 3.9, up from 3.7 percent in the third quarter of 2018. The racial breakdown found whites at 3.1 percent, Asian Americans at 3.2 percent, Hispanics at 4.5 percent, and African Americans at 6.5 percent.

Oddly enough, however, the gaps between whites and both Hispanics and African Americans have actually decreased in Illinois since before the Great Recession at the end of 2007. The study found that whites cut 1 percent off their unemployment rate over that time period, while African Americans dropped 3.4 percent and Hispanics 2 percent. Only Asian Americans saw their unemployment rate rise, 0.4 percent, as Illinois was one of only three states where that was the case, trailing New Jersey with an increase of 2.2 percent and Washington with an increase of 1 percent.

That was the trend nationally as well, as Asian Americans saw the least improvement from pre-recession levels to the present. Whites saw their unemployment rate drop 0.9 percent, African Americans 2.1 percent, Hispanics 1.4 percent, and Asian Americans 0.3 percent.

So obviously there’s plenty of work to be done in putting Illinoisans back to work, especially among minority groups, but there are also clear signs of progress being made in narrowing racial bias.