U.S. Black-white unemployment rate gap widens again in July

(Reuters) - The gap in the U.S. jobless rate between whites and Blacks widened for a third straight month in July, making the gulf between the races the widest in more than five years, Labor Department data released on Friday showed.

FILE PHOTO: A Kentucky State Trooper explains to Margaret Wells, of Louisville, that the line outside a temporary unemployment office established by the Kentucky Labor Cabinet is closed, at the State Capitol Annex in Frankfort, Kentucky, U.S. June 17, 2020. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston

The rate for both races fell in July, but the rate for whites dropped more, by 0.9 percentage point to 9.2%. The rate for Blacks dropped by 0.8 percentage point to 14.6%, widening the gap to 5.4 points.

The average unemployment rate for all demographic groups fell by 0.9 percentage points to 10.2% from 11.1%.

Graphic - Black versus white unemployment:

The COVID-19 pandemic, which has triggered the deepest U.S. recession since at least the Great Depression, has also laid bare economic inequalities between the races that have persisted for years even as a record-long economic expansion brought the unemployment rate to 50-year lows before the outbreak.

Job losses during the coronavirus downturn have fallen hardest on Blacks, Hispanics and women, wiping out much of the gains they had enjoyed in the final leg of the expansion.

Blacks were the only major demographic group whose jobless rate decline in July was smaller than the national average. The largest decline was for Asians, for whom it fell by 1.8 points to 12%, followed by a 1.6 point drop to 12.9% for Latinos.

At 14.6%, the unemployment rate for Blacks was the highest among the racial and ethnic groups tracked by the Labor Department. It was higher still for Black men at 15.2%, down from 16.3% in June, while for Black women the rate dropped to 13.5% from 14%.

The widening spread between racial group jobless rates in the last three months has reversed years of gains toward slowly bringing unemployment rates between Blacks and whites closer to parity.

Last August, the unemployment rate for Black workers dropped to a record low of 5.4% and the gap between Black and white workers narrowed to 2 points, the narrowest since the Labor Department retooled its measurement of employment by race in 1972.

Graphic - Unemployment across age and race:

For Black teenagers, the employment situation remains particularly bleak. While their jobless rate fell to 22.5% in July from 23.2% a month earlier, it was entirely because 26,000 African Americans between the ages of 16 and 19 dropped out of the workforce.

In fact, 15,000 fewer Black teens were working in July than in June, while the number of white teens at work rose by 149,000, and their jobless rate dropped by 5.5 percentage points to 17.8%.

Reporting By Dan Burns; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Paul Simao