Black Americans were the only demographic group to see a rise in joblessness in August, an increase that coincided with a robust return to the workforce.

The gains in labor participation among African Americans, driven by women, were one of the few signs of improvement in the U.S. job market in an August report that otherwise came up

short of estimates. 

Still, the Black unemployment rate jumped to 8.8% from 8.2% in July. While it has fallen from a pandemic high of 16.7% last year, the rate remains well above the nations average. With the August increase, the jobless rate for Black workers is almost double that of White workers, which stands at 4.5%.

The unemployment gap may weigh on the Federal Reserve as it looks to begin removing some of the emergency measures implemented during the pandemic and, further into the future, raising interest rates.The Fed has pledged to look at maximum employment as a broad-based and inclusive goal, and has cited minority jobless rates in its research and policy meetings.

Some 287,000 Black workers came into the workforce in August, meaning they were either employed or actively searching for a job. The White and Asian labor forces contracted, while the Hispanic workforce saw a small increase. 

Several factors might be contributing to the changes in labor participation. The end of supplemental pandemic unemployment insurance programs and return to school in some parts of the country may have prompted some to seek a job, while persisting child-care challenges and the spread of the delta variant of the coronavirus probably kept others out of the workforce. 

With assistance by Matthew Boesler

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