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Black unemployment rates by state

Which states have the highest and lowest rates of employment for Black and African Americans?

Updated

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In the wake of the pandemic in 2020, unemployment skyrocketed across the US. But job losses were not affecting all Americans equally, and by June 2020, the gap in the unemployment rate between Black and white people grew to a five-year high, according to Reuters.

Top 10 states with the lowest black unemployment rate

Unemployment rates vary widely across the US. South Carolina has the lowest Black and African American unemployment rate at 6%. Illinois, on the other hand, sees highs of 17%. These are the states with the highest and lowest Black unemployment rates.

1. South Carolina
South Carolina comes in as the state with the lowest rate of Black unemployment — 6% as of December 2020. This is lower than the national average unemployment rate by 0.7% during that same time period.

Looking intrastate, the Black unemployment rate is 1.4% higher than that of all races, which sits at 4.6%, and 2 percentage points higher than the white unemployment rate of 4%. As a measure of employment parity , the Black-to-white unemployment ratio comes to 1.5, which is the 8th best rank in the US. South Carolina also has one of the highest Black populations — representing 28% of the state — according to 2018 Census data.

2. Alabama
Alabama is the state with the second-lowest rate of unemployment for Black and African Americans. It comes in just 0.1% points shy of South Carolina with a Black unemployment rate of 6.1%. Like South Carolina, Black and African Americans make up 28% of the state’s population.

Unlike South Carolina, Alabama has an overall unemployment rate of 3.7%, with the white unemployment rate sitting at 3%. This means the Black-to-white ratio sits at 2.0, leaving Alabama with an employment parity ranking of 21 out of 36 states.

Tied-3. Arkansas
Arkansas comes in third place — a full 1% lower than Alabama — with a Black unemployment rate of 7.1%. Arkansas has a significantly smaller population of African Americans than the previous two states, with just shy of one-fifth (17%) being Black or African American.

However, with an overall unemployment rate of 4.2% and a white unemployment rate of 3.7%, Arkansas ranks higher than Alabama with an employment parity score of 1.9, ranking 19th in the nation.

Tied-3. Washington
Sharing the bronze podium with Arkansas is Washington, also with a Black unemployment rate of 7.1%. It’s worth pointing out, though, that Washington has one of the lowest Black populations in the country, with Black and African Americans only making up about 6% of the state’s population.

The overall unemployment of all races is the same as the Black unemployment rate of 7.1%. The Black-to-white employment ratio in Washington is the highest in the nation and is the only state where the white unemployment rate (7.3%) is lower than the Black unemployment rate — meaning it’s the only state to score a 1.0.

Tied-5. Minnesota
Minnesota ranks as the state with the 5th lowest unemployment rate for Blacks and African Americans at 7.3%. Like Washington, Minnesota is one of four states on this list with a Black population of 10% or less. Black and African American people account for 8% of Minnesotans.

The overall unemployment rate in Minnesota is 4.4%. The white unemployment rate comes in at 4%, leaving Minnesota with a Black-to-white unemployment ratio of 1.8, which is tied for the 15th highest in the nation.

Tied-5. Indiana
Like Minnesota, Indiana has a Black unemployment rate of 7.3%, but its Black population of 11% is a touch higher than that of Minnesota.

While the overall unemployment rate is slightly lower than Minnesota’s at 4.3%, the white unemployment rate is the same at 4%. This means that, as a ratio of employment parity, Indiana shares the 15th spot with Minnesota with a score of 1.8.

7. Virginia
Virginia has the 7th lowest Black unemployment rate of 7.7%, and 21% of its population is Black or African American. With an overall unemployment rate of 4.9% and a white unemployment rate of 4.2%, Virginia is tied for 15th with an employment parity score of 1.8.

8. Kansas
Kansas comes in 8th with a Black unemployment rate of 8%. It’s also one of the four states with a Black population of less than 10%, with Black and African Americans accounting for 8% of the state’s population.

With an overall unemployment rate of just 3.8% and a white unemployment rate of 3.4%, Kansas ranks as one of the states with the worst Black-to-white employment ratios at 2.3, putting it at 27 out of 36 states.

9. Maryland
Maryland’s Black unemployment rate of 8.1% lands it in the 9th spot on our list. It’s also one of the states with the highest Black population at 33%. The state’s overall unemployment rate sits at 6.3%, with the white unemployment rate at 5.6%. This puts its employment parity ranking at 1.4 — tied for 5th highest in the nation.

10. Kentucky
Rounding out the top 10 states with the lowest number of Black unemployment is Kentucky, at 8.4%. Black and African Americans only make up 10% of Kentucky’s population. With an overall unemployment rate of 6% and white unemployment only marginally lower at 5.9%, Kentucky shares the 5th spot with Maryland for employment parity with a score of 1.4.

Unemployment rate by race – visual

Unemployment rate by race – data

StateUnemployment rateBlack / White ratioRank by unemployment rateRank by Black / White unemployment ratio
Alabama6.1%2.0221
AlaskaN/AN/AN/AN/A
Arizona11.4%1.62410
Arkansas7.1%1.9319
California11.9%1.4263
ColoradoN/AN/AN/AN/A
Connecticut15.4%2.13424
Delaware9.7%2.61730
District Of Columbia16.8%6.43536
Florida11.4%2.12525
Georgia9.6%2.51628
HawaiiN/AN/AN/AN/A
IdahoN/AN/AN/AN/A
Illinois17.0%2.63631
Indiana7.3%1.8615
IowaN/AN/AN/AN/A
Kansas8.0%2.3827
Kentucky8.4%1.4105
Louisiana12.5%2.62829
MaineN/AN/AN/AN/A
Maryland8.1%1.496
Massachusetts9.4%1.3152
Michigan13.9%2.13322
Minnesota7.3%1.8516
Mississippi10.6%3.01834
Missouri9.4%1.91418
MontanaN/AN/AN/AN/A
Nebraska8.5%3.21135
Nevada13.6%1.5327
New HampshireN/AN/AN/AN/A
New Jersey10.6%1.5199
New MexicoN/AN/AN/AN/A
New York13.5%1.83113
North Carolina9.2%1.71312
North DakotaN/AN/AN/AN/A
Ohio9.2%1.91220
Oklahoma12.0%2.727.032.0
OregonN/AN/AN/AN/A
Pennsylvania12.9%2.229.026.0
Rhode Island10.6%1.420.04.0
South Carolina6.0%1.51.08.0
South DakotaN/AN/AN/AN/A
Tennessee11.3%2.123.023.0
Texas10.9%1.722.011.0
UtahN/AN/AN/AN/A
VermontN/AN/AN/AN/A
Virginia7.7%1.87.017.0
Washington7.1%1.04.01.0
West Virginia10.9%1.821.014.0
Wisconsin13.4%2.830.033.0
WyomingN/AN/AN/AN/A
StateOverallWhiteBlackHispanicAsian
Alabama3.9%3.0%6.1%2.3%N/A
Alaska5.8%3.5%N/A4.1%3.2%
Arizona7.5%7.2%11.4%8.6%8.1%
Arkansas4.2%3.7%7.1%2.8%N/A
California9.0%8.8%11.9%10.5%7.2%
Colorado8.4%7.8%N/A11.0%N/A
Connecticut8.0%7.4%15.4%11.6%2.5%
Delaware5.3%3.7%9.7%2.8%N/A
District Of Columbia7.9%2.6%16.8%5.8%5.4%
Florida6.1%5.3%11.4%6.1%3.9%
Georgia5.6%3.8%9.6%4.4%1.6%
Hawaii9.3%11.0%N/A16.9%5.3%
Idaho4.4%4.4%N/A5.8%N/A
Illinois7.6%6.4%17.0%7.0%5.5%
Indiana4.3%4.0%7.3%5.7%N/A
Iowa3.1%2.8%N/A4.4%N/A
Kansas3.8%3.4%8.0%3.9%N/A
Kentucky6.0%5.9%8.4%7.1%N/A
Louisiana7.2%4.8%12.5%8.1%N/A
Maine4.9%4.7%N/AN/AN/A
Maryland6.3%5.6%8.1%7.2%4.0%
Massachusetts7.4%7.4%9.4%11.0%4.1%
Michigan7.5%6.8%13.9%7.3%5.8%
Minnesota4.4%4.0%7.3%6.7%3.2%
Mississippi6.2%3.5%10.6%4.2%N/A
Missouri5.8%5.1%9.4%N/AN/A
Montana4.4%4.1%N/AN/AN/A
Nebraska3.0%2.6%8.5%4.6%N/A
Nevada9.2%9.0%13.6%8.7%8.5%
New Hampshire4.0%3.8%N/AN/AN/A
New Jersey7.6%6.9%10.6%8.3%7.4%
New Mexico8.2%7.4%N/A9.0%N/A
New York8.2%7.6%13.5%10.0%3.7%
North Carolina6.2%5.6%9.2%8.7%2.5%
North Dakota4.1%3.6%N/AN/AN/A
Ohio5.5%4.8%9.2%8.9%4.8%
Oklahoma5.3%4.5%12.0%6.4%N/A
Oregon6.4%5.7%N/A7.4%7.9%
Pennsylvania6.7%5.9%12.9%9.3%4.9%
Rhode Island8.1%7.6%10.6%14.1%N/A
South Carolina4.6%4.0%6.0%4.9%N/A
South Dakota3.0%1.7%N/AN/AN/A
Tennessee6.4%5.5%11.3%7.5%N/A
Texas7.2%6.6%10.9%8.2%4.1%
Utah3.6%3.5%N/A3.9%N/A
Vermont3.1%3.0%N/AN/AN/A
Virginia4.9%4.2%7.7%6.3%3.7%
Washington7.1%7.3%7.1%9.6%4.4%
West Virginia6.3%6.0%10.9%N/AN/A
Wisconsin5.5%4.9%13.4%9.1%N/A
Wyoming4.8%4.4%N/A4.0%N/A
StateBlack / White ratioHispanic / White ratioAsian / White ratio
Alabama2.00.8N/A
AlaskaN/A1.20.9
Arizona1.61.21.1
Arkansas1.90.7N/A
California1.41.20.8
ColoradoN/A1.4N/A
Connecticut2.11.60.3
Delaware2.60.8N/A
District Of Columbia6.42.22.1
Florida2.11.10.7
Georgia2.51.20.4
HawaiiN/A1.50.5
IdahoN/A1.3N/A
Illinois2.61.10.8
Indiana1.81.4N/A
IowaN/A1.6N/A
Kansas2.31.1N/A
Kentucky1.41.2N/A
Louisiana2.61.7N/A
MaineN/AN/AN/A
Maryland1.41.30.7
Massachusetts1.31.50.6
Michigan2.11.10.9
Minnesota1.81.70.8
Mississippi3.01.2N/A
Missouri1.9N/AN/A
MontanaN/AN/AN/A
Nebraska3.21.8N/A
Nevada1.51.00.9
New HampshireN/AN/AN/A
New Jersey1.51.21.1
New MexicoN/A1.2N/A
New York1.81.30.5
North Carolina1.71.60.5
North DakotaN/AN/AN/A
Ohio1.91.91.0
Oklahoma2.71.4N/A
OregonN/A1.31.4
Pennsylvania2.21.60.8
Rhode Island1.41.8N/A
South Carolina1.51.2N/A
South DakotaN/AN/AN/A
Tennessee2.11.4N/A
Texas1.71.30.6
UtahN/A1.1N/A
VermontN/AN/AN/A
Virginia1.81.50.9
Washington1.01.30.6
West Virginia1.8N/AN/A
Wisconsin2.81.9N/A
WyomingN/A0.9N/A

Resources and tips

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Kellye Guinan
Loans expert

There are many places you can turn to for relief if you find yourself unemployed. And while this is far from an exhaustive list of resources, we hope it’s a helpful place to start.

  • Seek unemployment insurance. If you’ve recently lost your job — because of the coronavirus or other factors — you may be eligible for unemployment benefits. Each state has its own regulations and cap on weekly benefits, but this should be the first place you look for relief when you’re out of work.
  • Research business opportunities. If you’re considering using unemployment as an opportunity to branch out or expand a current side hustle, there are grants available for minority-owned businesses in addition to Black-owned banks with business accounts that can help you manage your money.
  • Focus on your budget. Cut expenses where you can and keep an open line of communication with your creditors. There are forbearance and deferral options for credit cards and loans to postpone your monthly payments. Look into any opportunity to reduce expenses so you can avoid future debt while applying for new positions.

Methodology

To calculate updated unemployment rates by race, Finder uses the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)’s Local Area Unemployment Statistics data. Since demographic data by state is only released annually, we used the most recent State Employment Status Demographic Data release from 2019 and projected the unemployment rate ratios by race based on the Current Unemployment Rates for States to determine the estimated unemployment rate by race as of December 2020.

Explanation of Black/white unemployment rate ratio meaning:

  • This is the Black unemployment rate divided by the white unemployment rate.
    • A ratio of less than one signifies that the white unemployment rate is greater than the Black unemployment rate. In other words, unemployment is worse among white workers than Black workers.
    • A ratio of exactly one signifies that the white unemployment rate is equal to the Black unemployment rate. In other words, unemployment is equal between Black and white workers.
    • A ratio of greater than one signifies that the Black unemployment rate is greater than the white unemployment rate. In other words, unemployment is worse among Black workers than white workers. The higher the number, the greater the disparity in unemployment between Black and white workers.
  • None of the states we look at have a Black/white unemployment rate ratio of less than one, and only one state has a ratio of about one. That means that in all the states, the Black unemployment rate is worse than the white unemployment rate.
  • Other race ratios calculate to less than one. For instance, there are states where the Asian/white unemployment rate ratio is less than one, meaning there are some states where unemployment is worse among white workers than Asian workers.

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