Some Dealt With 10% Unemployment Long Before Pandemic

Off the Charts: The Visual Says It All

Construction engineer planning and briefing for safety and build factory in oil refinery plant.
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Kiyoshi Hijiki/Getty Images

What for White workers was a once-in-a-lifetime unemployment crisis brought on by the pandemic has often been the norm for Black or African American workers over the last 35 years.

Since August 1986, White people only experienced an unemployment rate of at least 10% during the first three months of the pandemic, a chart of unemployment rates by race shows. But the Black and African American unemployment rate has been double digits for a combined total of more than 21 years.

Kenneth C. Montgomery, the new interim president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, pointed to these stark statistics Monday in a speech opening a virtual conference on racial disparities in the economy. The Federal Reserve sets the nation’s monetary policy with two main goals: making sure consumer prices are stable and maximizing employment.

“Understanding racial disparities is essential to the Federal Reserve’s full employment mandate,” Montgomery said.

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