Unemployment dropped among Hispanic men and women in May but rose for Black workers

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The U.S. unemployment rate rose in May, but declined for Hispanic workers, according to the latest nonfarm payrolls report.

The overall unemployment rate last month was 3.7%, a gain of 0.3 percentage points from the prior month. However, Hispanic or Latina women saw their unemployment rate fall to 3.4% last month, down 0.7 percentage points from 4.1% in April, the U.S. Department of Labor reported Friday. The unemployment rate for Hispanic men ticked lower to 4% from 4.1% in April. Overall, the unemployment rate among Latinos decreased to 4% in May from 4.4% in the prior month.

“This is a historic low,” said Carmen Sanchez Cumming, a research associate at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, of the overall decline in the Hispanic unemployment rate. “The only other time that it’s been this level was in November 2022 and September of 2019 … For both Hispanic workers and for Black workers, at least in the first half of 2023, this recovery has been especially strong.”

Meanwhile, unemployment for Black workers overall rose 0.9 percentage points to 5.6% in May from 4.7% in April. Among Black men, the rate was 5.6% in May, compared to 4.5% in April. The unemployment rate also ticked higher for Black women, rising to 5.3% in May from April’s rate of 4.4%.

“Economic research and empirical data shows that for Hispanic workers and for Black workers, their outcomes are much more sensitive to fluctuations in the business cycle,” Cumming said. “So, when the labor market is really strong, Latino workers and Black workers benefit disproportionately, but when the labor market is weak, Black and Latino workers [are] hurt disproportionately, too.”

Monthly volatility vs. longer-term trends

The monthly jobs report is made up of two surveys: the payroll survey of employers and the household survey. There is a lot of volatility on a monthly basis that comes into play when looking at smaller demographic groups in the household survey, Cumming warned.

That volatility is the big story in the May jobs report, said Elise Gould, senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute.

“It’s important when we look at something like that to pay attention to the longer-term trend, because every month there can be a lot of movement,” Gould said.

“The longer-term trend suggests that the Black unemployment rate has been coming down,” she added. “So it’s about where it was three months ago. Yes, it was lower last month. It ticked up, but I think that probably it will resolve down again next month.”

The labor force participation rate for the overall population held at 62.6% in May. This metric measures the percentage of people who are either working or actively seeking employment. For Black men, the labor force participation rate ticked up to 68.2%, an increase from 67.8% in April. For Black women, the rate held steady at 63.9%.

Meanwhile, the labor force participation rate for Hispanic men was 79.5% in May, up from 78.9% in April. The rate stayed the same for Hispanic women at 61.2%.

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