After 40 Years, the Black-White Labor Force Participation Gap Has All But Closed

Black labor-force participation—meaning the number of people working or looking for work—is trending up, while broader participation in the U.S., particularly among whites, has flattened after falling.

Participation by race is now near a crossroad. The share of black Americans actively working or looking for work was 62.9% in February, while the corresponding white rate sat at 63.0%, which matches the overall U.S. average.

The gap, which has all but closed, is the smallest gap in labor-force participation by race since 1972, when black participation was slightly ahead of white participation and the national average. Among prime-age workers, those between 25 and 54, the participation gap is also narrowing.

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