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The unemployment rate fell for black and Hispanic workers in April, but remained stable for Asian American workers.
The unemployment rate in the United States fell slightly to 3.4% last month, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. The number not only marked a drop from 3.5% in March, but it also tied the lowest rate since 1969.
Unemployment fell sharply during Black workers, down to 4.7% in April from 5% the previous month. Likewise, the unemployment rate of Hispanic workers fell to 4.4% last month from 4.6%.
For Asian American workers, the unemployment rate remained stable at 2.8%, the same as in March.
“Unemployment rates remain low across the board and historically low for black workers,” said Valerie Wilson, director of the Economic Policy Institute’s program on race, ethnicity and the economy.
With an overall unemployment rate below 4%, the rate difference between racial demographic groups is also narrowing, she added.
A closer look at the labor force participation rate – a measure of the number of people looking for work – shows an underlying factor behind the drop in the unemployment rate for black workers in this latest report.
“The black unemployment rate has gone down for bizarre reasons,” said AFL-CIO chief economist William Spriggs. Indeed, the labor force participation rate for black workers fell in April, he said, to 63% from 64.1% in March. For black men, the rate went from 70.5% to 67.8%.
When this finding is placed next to the drop in the unemployment rate, it suggests that there are unemployed people who either stopped looking for a job or did not find one at the time.
“It’s kind of a weird mixed message,” Wilson said. “But again, looking at the longer-term trend, it’s still quite flat and stable compared to what we’ve seen over the past few months.”
Longer-term trends also show a slight increase in the labor force participation rate of Asian American populations, which was 64.9% in April – the same as in March. A year ago, the participation rate for this demographic was 64.5%. “It’s also a sign of continued job growth as more people enter the workforce,” Wilson said.
Spot green shoots
The April salary report showed huge gains in the health care and social assistance sector – an increase of more than 64,000 jobs – while government positions increased by 23,000.
The growth in these jobs is a positive development for women and people of color in particular, Spriggs said, as they tend to hold leadership positions in the health care and public service sectors.
“The fact that these sectors are doing well and continuing to hire is good news for equity issues,” he said.
— CNBC’s Gabriel Cortes contributed reporting.