Racial Inequality in Unemployment Got Worse In Biden’s First Month

President Joe Biden speaks during a meeting about cancer in the Oval Office of the White House, Wednesday, March 3, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Alex Brandon/AP Photo

The gap between black and white unemployment worsened in the first full month of Joe Biden’s presidency.

Unemployment dipped in the U.S. in February, the first full month of the Biden presidency, and the economy added far more jobs than expected.

But the recovery was uneven. While unemployment fell among Asians dipped slightly for whites and Hispanics, it rose for blacks, according to data released Friday.

The unemployment rate for black Americans rose from 9.2 percent in January to 9.9 percent in February. That contrasts with a tick down from 5.7 percent to 5.6 percent for whites, a dip from 8.6 to 8.5 among Hispanics, and a decline from 6.6 to 5.1 percent for Asians.

The widening gap is even starker when gender is included. The unemployment rate for black men jumped from 9.4 percent to 10.2 percent in February. For white men it fell from 5.5 percent to 5.3 percent.

Before the pandemic struck. the black-white employment gap had narrowed to its slimmest on record under President Trump.

The unemployment ratio had averaged around 2 to 1 or so for decades, meaning the black unemployment rate is typically twice the white unemployment rate.  In good times, the unemployment rate of whites and blacks fell but the gap tended to remain. And in bad times, the unemployment rate for whites and black rose, but black unemployment typically remained around twice that of white employment.

That changed in the Trump presidency when the black unemployment rate fell to just 161 percent of the white unemployment rate. That was up to 177 percent in February, still low by historic standards but well above where it was the month before.



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