In June 2017, the seasonally adjusted national unemployment rate in the USA was 4.4 per cent. This is one of the lowest rates in the past 12 years.

Following the worldwide economic downturn that began in 2007, unemployment reached a peak in 2009 at 9.7 per cent.

There is a wide difference in unemployment rates between different ethnic groups:

Unemployment rate 2009Unemployment rate 2017
African American16 %7.9%
White8.8 %4.7%
Asian American8.4%3.6%

Inequality in unemployment in the USA has number of causes.

Employment discrimination

Since 1989, studies based on whether the name on identical job applications sound white, African American or Latino, show that whites receive on average:

  • 36% more callbacks than African Americans
  • 24% more callbacks than Latinos

Low qualifications

People from poorer areas tend to have lower education levels. This is more likely to affect people from African American or Latino backgrounds.

Attempts to tackle unemployment

Affirmative Action was introduced to ensure that applicants are employed and employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, creed, colour or national origin.

Following the worldwide economic downturn, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act 2009 was introduced to:

  • stimulate the economy
  • save existing jobs
  • create new jobs

Also known as the Recovery Act, it provided three million jobs. In 2010, President Obama signed the Small Business Jobs Act. This aimed to save and create jobs by supporting small businesses through:

  • tax breaks
  • better access to credit