After 40 Years, the Black-White Labor Force Participation Gap Has All But Closed

   < < Go Back
from The Wall Street Journal,

Fields with high concentrations of African-Americans add jobs quickly, though economic disparities persist.

For weeks in 2014, Christopher Simms often walked to one of Baltimore’s malls and picked up job applications from stores he passed on the promenade. The 31-year-old submitted applications online and asked store managers for work. The attempts failed and he stopped looking.

Then in the middle of 2016, things changed. The job market improved and he got tired of sitting at home. He went to a career center and found a job as a sheet metal apprentice.

Mr. Simms, who is black, personifies a trend. Black labor-force participation—meaning the number of people working or looking for work—is trending up, while broader participation in the U.S., particularly among whites, has flattened after falling.

Participation by race is now near a crossroad. The share of black Americans actively working or looking for work was 62.9% in February, while the corresponding white rate sat at 63.0%, which matches the overall U.S. average. The gap, which has all but closed, is the smallest gap in labor-force participation by race since 1972, when black participation was slightly ahead of white participation and the national average. Among prime-age workers, those between 25 and 54, the participation gap is also narrowing.

More From The Wall Street Journal (subscription required):