Racial gap in U.S. jobless rate narrows in October

(Reuters) - The gap in unemployment rates between Blacks and whites in the United States narrowed in October for a second straight month, a sign the improving labor market is reaching more Americans even as COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to rise.

FILE PHOTO: A new business advertises for workers as it prepares to open up during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Encinitas, California, U.S., July 30, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Blake

The jobless rate for Blacks dropped by 1.3 percentage point to 10.8% in October from 12.1% in September, while the rate for whites dropped a percentage point to 6.0% from 7.0% a month earlier, data from the U.S. Labor Department showed on Friday.

The 4.8 percentage point gap was the narrowest since May, when it began widening as the job market’s recovery from record employment losses in March and April benefited whites far more than Blacks.

Overall, the U.S. unemployment rate fell more than expected last month to 6.9% from 7.9% in September.

Among Latinos the unemployment rate fell to 8.8%, from 10.3% a month earlier, the data showed.

The pandemic ended a record-long U.S. economic expansion that had begun delivering benefits to Blacks and other groups left behind in the earlier stages of the recovery from the previous recession. In August 2019, the Black unemployment rate was a record-low 5.4% and the gap with the white rate was at its narrowest ever at 2 percentage points.

The number of new COVID-19 cases in the United States rose 18% last week to a record 575,000, with deaths up 3% to 5,700, according to a Reuters analysis of state and county reports.

The racial gap in U.S. jobless rates has come under closer scrutiny in the months since the pandemic struck and exacerbated long-standing racial economic inequality.

Graphic: Black vs white unemployment -

Reporting by Ann Saphir; Editing by Paul Simao