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Black Unemployment Rate an Issue for Illinois

Illinois has one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation for African Americans, according to a new analysis. (StockSnap/Pixabay)
Illinois has one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation for African Americans, according to a new analysis. (StockSnap/Pixabay)
April 5, 2019

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – While all racial and ethnic groups are making gains in employment, new data reveals African Americans in Illinois are still falling behind.

A report from the Economic Policy Institute analyzes new unemployment figures from the fourth quarter of 2018. It found that Illinois' overall unemployment rate of 4.3% isn't far from the national rate of 3.9%.

However, the institute's Director of Race, Ethnicity and the Economy Valerie Wilson explains there are some large racial disparities.

"The group with the lowest unemployment rate in Illinois – whites at 3.4%. And the black unemployment rate is 8.8% – which is, in fact, significantly higher than the national unemployment rate of 6.5% at the end of last year," says Wilson.

Only Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., had higher unemployment rates for African Americans than Illinois. Wilson notes that the state's black population also has seen the largest gains in employment since the recession.

The unemployment rate for both Hispanics and Asians in Illinois was 3.8%.

The report only includes states where a sample size of racial and ethnic groups is large enough to create an accurate estimate. And Illinois is one of the 14 where African-American unemployment rates surpass white unemployment rates by a ratio of two-to-one.

Wilson says it raises questions about the probable barriers to employment.

"And that may have anything to do with residential segregation and people not living in communities that are experiencing growth, or access to jobs or reliable transportation,” says Wilson. “Any number of factors that influence people's ability to get access to jobs."

Illinois ranks 11th in the nation for lowest unemployment, and added about 59,000 jobs between February 2018 and February 2019.

Mary Schuermann Kuhlman, Public News Service - IL