Black workers in the U.S. saw an improvement in their jobs situation last month, as more men and women returned to the workforce and got hired.
The unemployment rate for Black workers fell to 6.9% in January, according to Labor Department figures released Friday, reversing a gain in December when most other groups were improving. The rate for African-American women dropped to 5.8% after setbacks the previous month.
The figures show that the surprisingly strong labor market last month extended to parts of the workforce that usually take longer to draw in. The participation rate for Black workers, both male and female, also increased.
Still, the unemployment rate for African Americans remains high above the country’s average—4% in January—and more double that of White workers, which ticked up to 3.4% last month.
The unemployment rate for Black workers tends to be twice as high as that of their White counterparts, even during times of economic expansion.
The Federal Reserve, which has a dual mandate that includes full employment, has signaled that it’s broadened its assessment of labor market conditions to factor in Black workers and others who take longer to see gains.
However, Chair Jerome Powell said last month that labor-conditions were in line with maximum employment. Nationwide, jobs openings are near record highs and the country has recovered more than 80% of the jobs lost during the pandemic.