Racial gap in US jobless rate widens

Residents of Meridian Heights apartments in Northwest Washington display a painted bedsheet protesting for the cancelation of rent due to the loss of jobs during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in Washington, DC, US, 20 August 2020.
Residents of Meridian Heights apartments in Northwest Washington display a painted bedsheet protesting for the cancelation of rent due to the loss of jobs during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in Washington, DC, US, 20 August 2020.Reuters
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The gap in unemployment rates between Blacks and whites in the United States widened for a fourth straight month in August and the spread between the races is now the largest in nearly six years.

The jobless rate for Blacks dropped by 1.6 percentage points to 13 per cent in August from 14.6 per cent in July, while the rate for whites dropped at a faster rate of 1.9 percentage points to 7.3 per cent from 9.2 per cent a month earlier. The overall US unemployment rate fell more than expected last month to 8.4 per cent from 10.2 per cent in July.

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The 5.7 percentage point gap was the widest since December 2014. One year earlier, in August 2019, the spread had been a record-low 2 percentage points. It was 2.5 points in April, when the US economy shed a record 20.8 million jobs as a result of business shutdowns imposed to contain the spread of COVID-19.

The racial gap in US jobless rates has come under closer scrutiny in the months since the pandemic struck as minorities and women suffered an outsized share of job losses, exacerbating long-standing economic inequality. The widening also occurs against a backdrop of protests against police violence against Blacks, which has become a central issue in the US presidential election campaign.

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