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Unemployment by ethnic background

Published Thursday, September 5, 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 3.8% in April-June 2019. The rate was 3.3% for people from a White background compared to 7.5% for people from BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) backgrounds. 

The unemployment rates for people from both White and BAME background are below the rates seen prior to the economic downturn in 2008. The number of people from a BAME background who are unemployed has increased by 52,000 since the same period in 2018, while unemployment among people from a White background is at historically low levels.

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 more than halved since 2009.

Unemployment rates by ethnic background: UK, 2008-19

In the 12 months to December 2018, the unemployment rate was highest for people from a Bangladeshi, or Black background (9%), followed by those from a Pakistani background (8%). The unemployment rates for people from Indian backgrounds 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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