Unemployment: In an equitable economy, everyone who wants to work would have a good job. 

Insights & Analyses

  • Although unemployment among White populations and populations of color have followed a similar trend between 1980 and 2010, the unemployment rate for populations of color has consistently been roughly four percentage points higher. In 2019 it was two percentage points higher.
  • Unemployment is highest in states with large populations of color, like Alaska and Mississippi. Among cities, unemployment is also highest in places with large populations of color like Detroit and Cleveland.
  • Since 1990, Native Americans have consistently experienced the highest rates of unemployment. However, the gap between unemployment rates among Blacks and Native Americans has shrunk in recent years.
  • Men experience unemployment at higher rates than women for all ethnic and racial groups except Asian or Pacific Islanders and Latinxs.

Drivers of Inequity

A variety of historical and contemporary factors cause Black, Native American, Latinx, and other workers of color to experience unemployment at much higher rates than White workers. Employer discrimination against Black workers has not improved in 25 years: among workers with the same resumes, White applicants receive 36 percent more callbacks than Black applicants and 24 percent more callbacks than Latinx people. In addition, racial segregation and disinvestment mean that students of color have far less access to well-resourced, high-quality schools. Transportation, affordable childcare and housing near job centers, and credit checks are also significant barriers to employment. Finally, racist policing practices and criminal legal system disproportionately incarcerate Black and Latinx men who then face employer discrimination due to their criminal records.


Grow an equitable economy: Policies to reach full employment for all

Strategy in Action

The City of Durham increases hiring of people with criminal records. After the City of Durham, North Carolina passed a "ban-the-box" policy in 2011, the proportion of new hires with a criminal record increased from 2 percent to over 15 percent in just three years, with no increase in workplace crimes. The policy removes questions about prior convictions from job applications, allowing an applicant to present his or her qualifications first. As of today, 35 states and over 150 cities have adopted a ban-the-box or fair-chance policy for public employers while 13 states and 18 cities have extended these policies to include private employers as well. In 2015, 19 major US companies pledged to ban the box under the White House's Fair Chance Business Pledge. Read more.

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