Unemployment rates fell for every major group of Americans last year, a hopeful sign for the economic recovery. Yet some groups are benefiting more than others. And in some cases, unemployment is falling for the wrong reason.
College grades are in the best position to land a job since the 2008 financial crisis. About 1.2 million of them found jobs in 2013, accounting for more than half of all hiring. Their unemployment rate fell to 3.3 percent from 4 percent. Despite the gains, unemployment is still above its roughly 2 percent average before the crisis.
The unemployment rate fell for high school graduates and drop-outs, too, but that's primarily because many stopped looking for work. The government counts people as unemployed only if they are actively searching for a job. So the drop in unemployment for these two groups was bad sign for the broader economy. About 760,000 of them left the workforce last year, which hurts consumer spending, incomes, and tax revenue collection.
At the same time, the historic gaps between racial and ethnic groups still persist. The unemployment rates for blacks and Hispanics both dropped. But they continued to be substantially higher than for whites and Asians. And the number of black American men in the workforce — either holding a job or looking for one — is at its lowest level in 41 years.