Economists' Outlook

Housing stats and analysis from NAR's research experts.

Characteristics of the Unemployed Across the Country

Jobless Rates were Higher for Young Women, Black People with Education Less than a High School Diploma

During the pandemic, there has been intensive interest in unemployment. Since millions of people have lost their jobs amid the Coronavirus, unemployment is also considered to be one of the main concerns and challenges of the economy this year. Specifically, from the beginning of the lockdown in mid-March to the latest week, there have been nearly 58 million Americans who have been laid off. However, layoffs are declining, and especially last week layoffs reached a new record low since the pandemic started. In the meantime nearly 13 million people, far fewer, continue to receive unemployment checks, which implies that even with new layoffs, there is job creation and people are able to come off of unemployment.

However, we need to know about the characteristics —demographic, social, or economic—of the unemployed to get some insights and be able to adopt the necessary policies. The current blog provides a full-scale analysis of unemployment.

The national household survey, known as the Current Population Survey (CPS) releases monthly employment data by demographic characteristics. See below in the following charts the unemployment rates by age, race/ethnicity and educational level at national level. Select a category from the dropdown.

Last week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released the unemployment situation in August 2020. In August, the unemployment rate declined by 1.8% to 8.4%, and the number of unemployed persons fell by 2.8 million to 13.6 million. While the unemployment rate has been declining for four consecutive months, it is still higher than pre-pandemic. As the data shows, among major demographic groups, the unemployment rates for young women, Blacks and people with less than a high school diploma is higher than other groups. However, unemployment rate declined in all demographic groups compared to the previous month. Specifically, unemployment is recovering faster for young people in the age group 20-24 (-4.2% from previous month), less than high school diploma (-2.8% from previous month) and Hispanics (-2.4% from previous month).
Meanwhile, bear in mind that July is typically the month of the summertime peak in youth employment. Additionally, comparing with pre-pandemic levels, unemployment rate for people of 35-54 years old with at least a bachelor degree is closer to the pre-pandemic rates.

At the local level, unlike at the national level, the Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t provide any monthly data reported by demographic characteristics or groups, such as gender, race/ethnicity and age group. However, the 2019 annual figures released recently for each state. According to these estimates, we identified the states with the lowest unemployment rates for the following demographic categories:

  • Unemployment rate for women: Hawaii (2%), North Dakota (2.2%) and Vermont (2.2%) were the top three states with the lowest unemployment rate for women. In the meantime, in Alaska, Hawaii, Kentucky and Minnesota, unemployment rates for women were lower than the rates for men.
  • While youth unemployment rate is higher than any other age group nationwide, Colorado (3.4%), Iowa (3.8%), North Dakota (3.9%) and Ohio (3.9%) were the states with the lowest unemployment rates for people 20-24 years old.
  • Among 36 states, Massachusetts with 3.7% had the lowest unemployment rate for Blacks followed by South Carolina (3.8%) and Washington (4.2%). Comparing unemployment rates between Whites and Blacks, Washington, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and South Carolina were the states with the smallest gap between White and Black unemployment rates. Alabama (1.8%), Delaware (2.1%) and Arkansas (2.3%) had the lowest unemployment rate for Hispanics.

Due to the pandemic, employment conditions are changing very rapidly. Some people may argue that the annual figures do not reflect the current unemployment conditions by demographic group. Nevertheless, based on the latest unemployment rates, most of the states above had also a lower unemployment rate than nationwide in July. For instance, while Iowa, North Dakota and Colorado were the states with the lowest youth unemployment, these three states had also an unemployment rate less than 8%. Thus, youth employment is not expected to be affected significantly by the pandemic in these states.

Hover over the map to see the unemployment rates by demographic group in 2019:


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