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Hardest Hit: African American Unemployment in Mississippi

May 11th, 2011

A recent brief by the Economic Policy Institute underscores that, while periods of joblessness were felt by Mississippians from all Counties and demographics, Mississippi’s African American workers consistently experienced much higher rates of unemployment throughout the 2007 recession than white workers in Mississippi and across the United States.

From the beginning to the end of the recession, unemployment rates for African Americans far surpassed those of white workers. See Chart. In the first quarter of 2010, unemployment among African Americans peaked with one in every five African American workers jobless and looking for work. At the same point, unemployment for white workers in Mississippi was 6 percent, with a gap between the two groups of 14 percentage points. Even when Mississippi’s white unemployment peaked at 8.1 percent the third quarter of 2009, it was still well below the unemployment rate for African Americans.¹

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Microsoft Word - African American Workers (2) 5.5.11.docx

The gap between Mississippi’s white and African American unemployment rates exceeds the national gap and has grown over the recession. Throughout 2010, the unemployment rate for African American workers in Mississippi exceeded rates of unemployment for African American workers nationally. In contrast, unemployment rates for Mississippi’s white workers stayed below the rates of U.S. white workers. In Mississippi, at the end of 2010, white workers experienced an unemployment rate of 6.9 percent while African Americans continued to experience the very high rate of 17.3 percent – a rate more than ten percentage points higher than for white workers.

A large disparity in unemployment has serious implications for the state’s economic recovery and future economic development. Thirty-seven percent (37%) of the Mississippi’s residents are African American, and persistently high unemployment among such a large portion of the state’s residents impacts the economic security and stability of families and communities across the state. Tomorrow, MEPC will take a closer look at unemployment by race in each county across Mississippi.


Sarah Welker, Policy Analyst

¹ Hall, Douglas and Algernon Austin. 2011. “Distressed Mississippi: Unemployment rate for African American workers is significantly higher than that for whites”. Economic Policy Institute Issue Brief. April 28, 2011.

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