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According to the latest nonfarm payrolls report, the US unemployment rate rose in May but fell among Hispanic workers.
The headline unemployment rate was 3.7% last month, up 0.3 percentage point from the previous month. However, the unemployment rate for Hispanic or Latino females fell to 3.4% last month, down 0.7 percentage points from 4.1% in April, the US Labor Department reported on Friday. The Hispanic male unemployment rate fell to 4% from 4.1% in April. Overall, the unemployment rate among Latinos fell to 4% in May from 4.4% in the previous month.
“This is an all-time low,” said Carmen Sanchez Cumming, a research fellow at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, of the overall decline in the Hispanic unemployment rate. “The only other time this level was reached was in November 2022 and September 2019 … For both Hispanic and black workers, this recovery was particularly strong during at least the first half of 2023.”
Meanwhile, unemployment for black workers as a whole rose 0.9 percentage points to 5.6% in May, from 4.7% in April. For black men, the rate was 5.6% in May, compared to 4.5% in April. The black female unemployment rate also rose to 5.3% in May from 4.4% in April.
“Economic research and empirical data show that Hispanic and black workers’ outcomes are much more sensitive to fluctuations in the business cycle,” Cumming said. “So when the labor market is really strong, Latino and black workers benefit disproportionately, but when the labor market is weak, black and hispanic workers benefit.” [are] also hurt disproportionately.”
Monthly volatility versus longer term trends
The Monthly Jobs Report consists of two surveys: the Employers’ Wage Survey and the Household Survey. Cumming warned that there is a lot of monthly volatility when looking at smaller demographics in the household survey.
That volatility is the big story in May’s jobs report, said Elise Gould, senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute.
“When we’re looking at something like this, it’s important to look at the longer-term trend because there can be a lot of movement each month,” Gould said.
“The longer-term trend suggests that the black unemployment rate has been falling,” she added. “So it’s about what it was three months ago. Yes it was lower last month. It’s up, but I think it’s likely to come down again next month.”
The activity rate of the total population was 62.6% in May. This metric measures the percentage of people who are either working or actively seeking employment. For black males, the labor force participation rate rose to 68.2%, up from 67.8% in April. For black women, the rate remained constant at 63.9%.
Meanwhile, the labor force participation rate for Hispanic males was 79.5% in May, compared to 78.9% in April. For Hispanic women, the rate remained the same at 61.2%.