Race on LI: The Unemployment Gap

Just one month after the pandemic sent the nation into paralysis, Long Island saw its unemployment rate quadruple from 3.8% to 16% –– and that’s only scratching the surface of its potential impact on Long Island’s economy. Data also shows that the virus is exacerbating inequalities that existed prior to the outbreak.

Amid nationwide protests and renewed conversation on racial inequality sparked by the police killing of George Floyd, nextLI is digging into regional disparities as part of our running series “Race on LI.”

Here’s a look back into pre-existing patterns in Long Island’s unemployment numbers by race.

Unemployment on Long Island steadily declined in recent years, trending alongside the national unemployment rate.

From 2012 to 2018, Long Island’s jobless rate decreased by 3.5%, while the national rate decreased by 3.9%, according to New York State’s Department of Labor.

Broken down by race, in that same four-year period, white unemployment went down 3.49% while Black unemployment went down 4.89%.

Unlike the general downward trend for unemployment in Long Island’s white population, the region and the country in the graph above, Long Island’s Black jobless rate dipped until 2016 but then increased in 2017 and 2018.

Census data shows that Black unemployment (6.51%) was twice the rate of both white (3.41%) and regional unemployment (3.7%) rates in 2018.

Although we haven’t seen the full effects of the pandemic, what we know now about its impact and Long Island’s pre-existing racial inequities may point to an even wider unemployment gap in the future.