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Racial Disparity Emerges In Oregon Unemployment Data

OPB | Jan. 15, 2013 3:01 p.m. | Updated: Jan. 16, 2013 8:05 a.m.

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New figures from the Oregon Employment Department show a big racial disparity in unemployment rates.

Brenda Gottsabend / Flickr

Oregon’s unemployment rate was unchanged in December at 8.4 percent. But when that number is broken down by race, there are big differences between ethnic groups.

During 2012, the average unemployment rate for whites in Oregon was 8.7 percent. For Latinos, it was 11.4 percent. And for African Americans, it was 18.4 percent.  That’s close to a ten-percentage gap between Oregon’s white and black job-seekers.  

Michael Alexander of the Urban League of Portland says he’s concerned about making sure the economic recovery is equitable. “Is there anybody within the greater Portland community or even the overall state, who would look at the disparity in those numbers, during a period when we’re going through some recovery, and be comfortable with it?”

He says Oregonians need to find a new way to approach this problem. 

He says the if authorities looked at unemployment for African Americans in North Portland between 18 and 45 years of age, he believes the rate would be higher still. 

Oregon employment economist Nick Beleiciks says there is some good news tucked in the figures. 

“The unemployment rate was down in each category that we have information for,” Beleiciks says. “So each unemployment rate fell a little bit from 2011 to 2012.”

Oregon’s unemployment rate remains slightly higher than the nation’s, which is 7.8 percent. 

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