Unemployment rate for black men fell in October, but participation rate also fell

A Now Hiring sign at a Dunkin’ restaurant on September 21, 2021 in Hallandale, Florida.

Joe Raedle | Getty Images

The unemployment rate for black men fell in October while it rose for most other groups, but that may be due to workers leaving the labor force.

The October nonfarm payrolls printout showed the US economy added 261,000 jobs during the month and the unemployment rate for all workers fell from 3.5% to 3.7% .

For black men, unemployment fell to 5.3% from 5.8% a month earlier on a seasonally adjusted basis. White unemployment rose to 3.2% overall, from 3.1% a month earlier.

“He went in the right direction for the wrong reasons,” said Bill Spriggs, a Howard University economics professor and AFL-CIO chief economist.

The wrong reasons

The downward movement in unemployment among black men is likely due to the labor force participation rate, which fell slightly to 67.2% in October, just below the previous month’s reading of 68%.

Additionally, the employment-to-population ratio for black men fell to 63.6% from 64.1% in September, which could indicate that workers have stopped looking for jobs, pushing down unemployment.

Unemployment for Hispanic workers also jumped in October, outpacing the rise for black and white workers. It jumped to 4.2% from 3.8% in September.

“It shows this ongoing frustration that workers of color are having in the job market,” Spriggs said. Although overall the job market is strong, “it’s not a tight job market where people can just walk in and find a job, no matter who they are.”

Overall, black unemployment rose, led by black women. In October, the unemployment rate for black women climbed to 5.8% from 5.4% in September.

“It’s concerning because throughout the pandemic and economic recovery from the pandemic crisis, black women have lagged,” said Kate Bahn, director of economic policy and chief economist at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, a non-profit organization.

On the positive side, the employment-to-population ratio for black women did not change, although labor force participation increased during the month. This could be a sign that more black women are returning to the workforce and looking for jobs but have yet to find jobs, noted Valerie Wilson, director of the race, ethnicity and economics program. at the Economic Policy Institute.

“It doesn’t mean there are a lot of people losing their jobs,” she said.

Go forward

Of course, one month of data doesn’t make a trend, so it’s important to look at the longer-term picture for workers of color.

Generally, the unemployment rate for workers of color has declined in recent months, in line with that of their white counterparts, and labor force participation and the employment-to-population ratio have remained flat for the most part, Wilson said.

Still, there may be cause for concern going forward depending on how the Federal Reserve reads the October report. The labor market has remained strong amid historic interest rate hikes aimed at reining in high inflation, and the central bank is poised to continue its rate hike path.

If the Fed goes too far and pushes the US economy into a recession, it could have the worst impact on workers of color.

“If we throw the economy into a recession, that impact, at least historically, is more likely to hit communities of color harder,” Wilson said.

– CNBC’s Gabriel Cortes contributed reporting.

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