Report: Unemployment Rates DownExcept for Black Women

By Julissa Catalan

Photo by Shutterstock

According to new analysis by the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), Black women are the only group whose unemployment rate has gone unchanged in the last year.

“The slowdown in job growth isn’t the only red flag in today’s employment data,” said Joan Entmacher, the NWLC’s Vice President for Family Economic Security. “While unemployment rates for all other groups of workers are lower than a year ago, the unemployment rate for African-American women has not improved over the past year, and stands at 10.6 percent. Lawmakers must act to promote a strongerand more widely sharedrecovery.”

From August 2013 to August 2014, the overall unemployment rate dropped by more than 1 percentfrom 7.2 to 6.1 percent. For women, the unemployment rate dropped from 6.2 to 5.7 percent. For Black men, it dropped nearly 3 percent, from 13.4 percent to 10.8 percent. Yet the unemployment rate for Black women stayed at 10.6 percent.

Per data reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

  • The overall unemployment rate decreased 1.1 percentage points.
  • Unemployment rates for men declined sharply over the last year.
  • Adult (20 and older) men’s overall unemployment and adult white men’s unemployment both declined by 1.3 percentage points.
  • Adult Latino and Black men saw declines of 2.0 percentage points or more, though their rates remain higher than men’s overall.
  • Unemployment rates declined for most groups of women.
  • Adult women overall, adult white women and adult Latino women all saw declines of about half a percentage point.
  • Single mothers saw a larger decrease of 1.7 percentage points.
  • Adult Black women were the only group whose unemployment rate saw no net change over the last year. It was 10.6 percent in August 2014, the same rate it was in August 2013.Their rate is now similar to that of adult Black men.


  • The overall unemployment rate in August was 6.1 percent, down from 6.2 percent in July.
  • Adult women and men’s unemployment rates in August were both 5.7 percent, and both were unchanged since July.
  • Unemployment rates declined in August from July for adult white women, adult Black men, and Latino adult men.
  • Unemployment rates rose in August for adult Black women, adult Latina women and single mothers. The rate also rose for adult white men.

Women accounted for nearly two-thirds of the jobs added in August but fewer than half of the jobs added over the last year:

  • In August women added 91,000 jobs, accounting for 64.1 percent of the 142,000 jobs added.
  • Women’s largest gains were in professional and business (plus 28,000), private education and health services (plus 23,000), and manufacturing (plus 17,000).Largest losses were in other services (minus 5,000) and transportation and warehousing (minus 2,900).
  • Men’s largest gains were in professional and business services (plus 19,000), construction (plus 16,000), private education and health (plus 14,000), and other services (plus 13,000). Largest losses were in manufacturing (minus 17,000), information (minus 9,000), and retail (minus 7,300).
  • Over the last year (August 2013August 2014) women added 1,073,000 jobs, accounting for 43.2 percent of 2,482,000 jobs added.

In an interview with The Huffington Post, Entmacher said that education level is not the issue. The NWLC did a comparison of adults with bachelor’s degrees across all demographics, and Black women still had the highest unemployment rate of any group with equivalent education.

“There’s something else going on here,” she said.

Entmacher points to budget cuts within the private sector as a possible reason.

Black women are disproportionately employed in the public sector, because state and local governments have historically offered more equitable employment opportunities for women and the underrepresented community than the private sector. But the public sector is experiencing much slower job recovery due to budget cuts and this has a domino affect, which Black women seem to feel the most.

“Public-sector jobs are slower to recover because public policy has been to cut or freeze funding for all levels of government over the past few years,” she said. “After the recovery began, there was an emphasis on reducing the deficit and shrinking the government at a time when that was really damaging to the economy.

“Recovery has been slow for all demographics, but Black women are the only group that does not seem to be bouncing back at all.”

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