What does this measure?
The unemployment rate for racial and ethnic groups in a geographic area. Unemployed individuals are those without jobs who are able, available and seeking work; the rate presents them as a share of the total labor force (the total number of employed and unemployed individuals 16 or older and not living in prisons, mental hospitals, or nursing homes).
Why is this important?
Unemployment rates are a relatively timely indicator of current local economic conditions, particularly recent changes in the employment landscape that reflect the overall health of the economy.
How is our county doing?
In 2017-21, unemployment in Essex County was highest among Hispanic workers at 9.4%. Unemployment rates for white and African American workers were similar at 4.6% and 4.1% respectively. Among Asian workers, unemployment was 2.7%. There were similar disparities at the state and national levels, but the unemployment rate for African American workers in Essex County was lower than for Massachusetts as a whole (8.4%) and the nation (9.2%). The unemployment rate for Hispanic workers in Essex County was higher than the state rate (8.9%) and national rate (6.4%).
Since 2000, unemployment rates for all racial and ethnic groups decreased in Essex County, except white workers, who had a slight increase. The rate decreased most among African American workers (6 points) followed by Asian workers (5 points) and Hispanic workers (1 point).
How do we compare to similar counties?
In 2017-21, Essex County had a lower unemployment rate among African Americans than Lake, IL (11.6%), but was fairly similar to Middlesex, MA (6.8%) and Westchester, NY (7.4%). All three comparison counties had somewhat lower unemployment among Hispanic workers.
Why do these disparities exist?
While traditional explanations for employment rate disparities focus on education and training gaps, whites tend to be employed at higher rates than Blacks and other people of color at every education level (high school, some college, bachelor's degree, etc.). This has led many researchers to focus on labor market discrimination as a primary cause of higher unemployment among people of color. However, it is also true that education levels are generally lower for people of color, suggesting that the education system's failure to equitably serve people of color is also a contributing factor.
Notes about the data
The multiyear figures are from the Census Bureau's American Community Survey. The bureau combined 5 years of responses to the survey to provide estimates for smaller geographic areas and increase the precision of its estimates. However, because the information came from a survey, the samples responding to the survey were not always large enough to produce reliable results, especially in small geographic areas. CGR has noted on data tables the estimates with relatively large margins of error. Estimates with 3 asterisks have the largest margins, plus or minus 50% or more of the estimate. Two asterisks mean plus or minus 35%-50%, and one asterisk means plus or minus 20%-35%. For all estimates, the confidence level is 90%, meaning there is 90% probability the true value (if the whole population were surveyed) would be within the margin of error (or confidence interval). The survey provides data on characteristics of the population that used to be collected only during the decennial census. Data for this indicator are released annually in December.