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Unemployment rate nears pre-pandemic levels


An affixed sign reading “We’re Hiring!” At a Starbucks, a sign reads “We are Hiring!”

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According to the March Jobs Report, unemployment levels were near pre-Covid levels for all racial groups. However, there was a sharp improvement in Black workers, who are most affected by the pandemic.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, overall U.S. unemployment fell to 3.6% in March. reported Friday. Last month’s nonfarm payrolls added 431,000 jobs, slightly more than was expected by economists.

Each demographic group that the bureau tracks, broken down into race or ethnicity or gender, had its unemployment rate either remain steady or decline in March.

Each racial and ethnic group had a unemployment rate that was either slightly lower or within striking distance than the February 2020 level.

U.S. unemployment rate by race or ethnicity

February 2020 March 2021 February 20, 2222 March 2022
We are white 3.0% 5.3% 3.3% 3.2%
Black 6.0% 9.5% 6.6% 6.2%
Asian 2.4% 5.9% 3.1% 2.8%
Hispanics or Latinos 4.4% 7.7% 4.4% 4.2%

Black workers experienced the largest percentage point drop in unemployment rates from 6.6% to 6.2% between February and March.

These series are volatile so it is important to look at them over a longer time period. Valerie Wilson, the director of the Economic Policy Institute’s program on race and ethnicity, said that there was a steady decline in Black unemployment rates over the past three months. The labor force participation rate is also stable.

Wilson stated, “That does indicate things moving in a positive direction.”

Broken down by gender in workers aged 20 or older, Black male unemployment fell from 6.4% – 5.6% March to Black female unemployment dropped from 6.1% – 5.5% last Month.

Wilson believes that Black Americans over 20 could have a higher unemployment rate than reported. Black workers aged between 16 and 19 years were at 22.9% as of March.

Nicole Mason (president and CEO of The Institute for Women’s Policy Research) stated that March’s retail trade sector saw continued growth. Last month, the sector saw 49,000 new jobs. The retail trade sector has 278,000 more employees than it did in February 2020. Mason stated that women are concentrated in retail trade.

The unemployment rate for Black women, Latino women and persons of color remains higher than that of the national average. However, it is now half of the rate it was during the first pandemic. “So that’s great news,” she stated.

The Federal Reserve could be confident that March’s strong jobs report will continue to give it confidence. rate hike cycleWilson says that it is working to combat inflation.

“Another strong jobs report like the one we had today and the fact that, for a lot of groups, you do see the unemployment rate much closer to … where it was before the pandemic, that probably adds fuel to the idea that this is a time for them to raise rates,” Wilson said.

—CNBC’s Crystal Mercedes contributed to this report.