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Unemployment by ethnic background

Published Wednesday, December 18, 2019

The unemployment rate is higher for people from a BAME background than from a White background, although the rate varies considerably by ethnic group. This short paper summarises trends in unemployment rates and looks at how rates vary by ethnicity, age and gender.

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The (seasonally adjusted) UK unemployment rate was 4% in April-June 2019. The rate was 3.6% for people from a White background compared to 7.0% for people from BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) backgrounds, although there was substantial variation between different ethnic minority groups.

The number of people from a BAME background who are unemployed has increased slightly since the same period in 2018, going from a rate of 6.9% to 7.0%. In comparison, the unemployment rates for people from White backgrounds are currently at historically low levels. Unemployment rates for people both from White and BAME backgrounds are below the rates seen prior to the economic downturn in 2008.

Following the downturn there was an increase in unemployment rates across ethnic groups. The unemployment rate for people from a White background reached a peak of 7.8% in 2011 while the rate for people from BAME backgrounds increased to a peak of 14.7% in 2009. The rate for those from BAME background has nearly halved since 2009.

In the 12 months to June 2019, the unemployment rate was highest for people from a Black (9%) background, followed by those from a Pakistani or Bangladeshi background (8%). The unemployment rates for people from an Indian or Chinese background was similar to that for White people.

Commons Briefing papers SN06385

Authors: Brigid Francis-Devine; Andy Powell

Topics: Ethnic groups, Unemployment

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