*The promise of better job opportunities for African Americans in cities like Charlotte, Miami, Tampa and Las Vegas is unmet, according to a new report released today by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).
High black unemployment widespread across nation’s metropolitan areas, by Algernon Austin, director of EPI’s program in race and ethnicity, measures African American unemployment in 31 large metropolitan areas,* comparing post-recession rates of 2010 to the rates before and at the end of the recession (2007 and 2009).
Before the recession, Sun Belt cities were a refuge for African Americans escaping black unemployment rates of 10% or higher in metropolitan Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland, Kansas City, Memphis, Milwaukee, Minneapolis and St. Louis. By 2010, the Sun Belt metropolitan areas of Charlotte, Miami, Tampa and Las Vegas all had unemployment rates above the national black rate and were among the highest rates of all the metros examined.
Los Angeles, Charlotte, and Detroit all had black unemployment rate increases of more than 4 percentage points from 2009 to 2010. In total, 16 out of the 31 metro areas studied had unemployment rate increases of at least 1 percentage point.
The study ranks the 31 metro areas by unemployment rate (Detroit is highest at 24.7%) and by the ratio of black-to-white unemployment (Milwaukee is highest, where blacks were 3.8 times as likely to be unemployed as whites), but the overall picture it paints is that, in the current economy, it is very difficult for African Americans to escape double-digit unemployment.
“Without a strong federal jobs program, the pain of very high unemployment is likely to be long-lasting for most of America’s metropolitan blacks,” said Austin.
This issue brief finds:
- In 2010, Detroit, Milwaukee, Las Vegas and Minneapolis all had black unemployment rates of over 20%, comparable to the peak national unemployment rates during the Great Depression of the 1930s.
- In 2007, the Sun Belt metropolitan areas of Charlotte, Miami, Tampa and Las Vegas all had black unemployment rates below the national rate for blacks. By 2010, these Sun Belt metros had unemployment rates above the national black rate and were among the highest rates of all the metros examined.
- In Milwaukee, Minneapolis and Baton Rouge, blacks were more than three times as likely to be unemployed as whites in 2010. Milwaukee had the biggest disparity with a black-to-white unemployment rate ratio of 3.8-to-1.
*This analysis is limited to the 31 metropolitan areas for which the data were sufficient for reliable unemployment estimates.
For analysis of Hispanic unemployment by metro area, see: Two New England cities have highest Hispanic unemployment rates
The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) is an independent, nonprofit think tank that researches the impact of economic trends and policies on working people in the United States.
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