width=132The U.S. unemployment rate went up again in June, rising to 9.5 percent (seasonally adjusted). Although the whole economy is affected by this worst contraction since the Great Depression, the impact of growing unemployment hits harder at certain demographic groups and industries.

Age, gender and race

Younger workers have much higher unemployment rates than the rest of the labor force. The June unemployment rate for those 16-19 years old was 24 percent, compared to 8.9 percent for workers 20 and over. The unemployment rate for African Americans in the 16-19 age group was more than half again greater, at 37.9 percent. The rate for young Hispanic workers in June was 30.1 percent (seasonal adjustment is not available for this category, the other rates mentioned are seasonally adjusted).

Marital status also seems to be related to lower unemployment rates. Married men (with spouse present) had unemployment of 6.9 percent, and the rate for married women was even lower, at 5.6 percent.

Education makes a significant difference in unemployment rates. Workers with less than a high school education had unemployment of 15.5 percent, and those with a high school degree had unemployment of 9.8 percent. The unemployment rate for workers with some college education was lower, at 8 percent. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate for workers with a bachelor degree or higher was 4.7 percent, about one half the overall rate. The latter category accounts for about 30 percent of the labor force, so the lower unemployment rate for workers with college degrees cannot offset the much higher rates for all other workers.

Based on the above, the demographic characteristics of a person least likely to be unemployed describe a married white woman over 55, with a college degree. At the other extreme, the highest unemployment rates are for black teenagers who have not completed high school.


But even middle-aged white women working in certain industries face hard times in this downturn. The highest unemployment rate is in construction, at 17.4 percent (see table). The rate is at double-digit levels in six other industries (mining, manufacturing, agriculture, leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, and information). The lowest rates are in financial activities, education and health services, and government.

U.S. Unemployment Rates By Industry (June 2009)
(Not Seasonally Adjusted)
Mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction13.6
Agriculture and related12.3
Leisure and hospitality12.1
Professional and business services11.3
Wholesale and retail trade9.1
Other services8.4
Transportation and utilities8.4
Education and health services6.1
Financial activities5.5
Government workers4.4
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 

Final note: Why rates will remain high

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 9.5 percent and the rate not seasonally adjusted is 9.7 percent. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics survey measures those who are not working but looking for work as unemployed. The most frequently quoted rates do not include the marginally attached workers, persons who would like a job but cannot find one (including discouraged workers who have stopped looking). Nor do these rates include workers who have taken part-time positions. Adding all these categories to the reported unemployed gives an unemployment rate of 16.5 percent, or one out of six workers. This figure provides some insight into why unemployment rates are expected to remain high when the recovery begins. As employment opportunities improve, part-time and discouraged workers will become job seekers, adding to the statistics of those not working but looking for work.