Black unemployment rate declines in August, even as it rose across the board

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The unemployment rate for Black workers slipped in August, bucking the broader trend of a higher overall jobless rate.

The overall unemployment rate ticked up to 3.8% last month, the highest since February 2022. It came as the labor force participation rate – a measure of the number of people who are employed or seeking employment – climbed to 62.8% for its highest level since February 2020.

The jobless rate declined for Black workers, sliding to 5.3% in August, compared to 5.8% in July.

When accounting for gender, the unemployment rate for Black men 20 years and older came down to 5%, a decline from the 5.3% rate in July. Black women saw their jobless rate fall to 4.7%, compared to 5.2% in the prior month.

“I am relieved that the Black unemployment rate is coming down; it had been a little elevated a couple of months earlier,” said Elise Gould, senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute. “Hopefully that’s a positive trend.”

Among Black workers, the labor force participation rate – which shows the number of people who are working or in search of employment – was little changed from the prior month. It came in at 62.6% in August, compared to 62.7% in July.

The jobless rate moved higher for Asians and Hispanics, however.

Among Asians, the unemployment rate increased to 3.1% in August from 2.3% in July. Hispanics saw their jobless rate rise to 4.9%, up from 4.4% a month earlier.

Gould noted that the household data underlying the racial and ethnicity figures are based on smaller sample sizes, so there can be significant volatility from one month to the next.

A potential area of concern emerged in the latest release, however: a decline in jobs in the state and local government education space. Local government education payrolls fell by more than 10,000 in August, while state government education jobs dropped by nearly 5,000.

“State and local education fell,” said Gould, adding that she’s watching that sector as it’s a notable employer of Black workers and women. “That sector is concerning, especially as students go back to school this month.”

­-CNBC’s Jeff Cox contributed to this story.

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