The unemployment rate is higher for people from a BAME background than from a White background, although the rate varies considerably by ethnic group. This short paper summarises trends in unemployment rates and looks at how rates vary by ethnicity, age and gender.

Download the full report

This paper focuses on standard official sources, which do not reflect the effect of the coronavirus pandemic. For more timely data on the labour market, see the Library briefing Coronavirus: Impact on the labour market

The (seasonally adjusted and non-seasonally adjusted) UK unemployment rate was 3.9% in January-March 2020. The (non-seasonally adjusted) rate was 3.6% for people from a White background compared to 6.3% for people from BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) backgrounds, although there was substantial variation between different ethnic minority groups.

The number of people from a BAME background who are unemployed has decreased slightly since the same period last year, going from a rate of 6.9% to 6.3%. The unemployment rate for people from White backgrounds is around the same as the same period last year, going from 3.8% to 3.9%, and is currently close to historically low levels. Unemployment rates for people both from White and BAME backgrounds are below the rates seen prior to the economic downturn in 2008.

Following the downturn there was an increase in unemployment rates across ethnic groups. The unemployment rate for people from a White background reached a peak of 7.8% in 2011 while the rate for people from BAME backgrounds increased to a peak of 14.7% in 2009. The rate for those from BAME background has nearly halved since 2009.

In the 12 months to December 2019, the unemployment rate was highest for people from a Black, and Bangladeshi or Pakistani (8%) background. The unemployment rates for people from an Indian or Chinese background was similar to that for White people.

  • Commons Research Briefing SN06385
  • Authors: Andy Powell, Brigid Francis-Devine, Niamh Foley
  • Topics: Communities, Work & Incomes

Download the full report