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As the unemployment rate soared in April to its highest levels since the Great Depression, with 14.7 percent of workers without jobs, the coronavirus shutdown fell unequally on Americans according to age, gender, educational attainment as well as race.

Women became unemployed at higher rates than men. Hispanics and blacks were hit harder than whites and Asians. Those without high school diplomas fared the worst. As did teenagers, of whom nearly a third are now out of work.

The numbers, released Friday by the Labor Department, are the first to capture an entire month of stalled business activity, offering the clearest illustration to date of how economic pain is distributed among Americans.

And yet, while the numbers demonstrate a “collective crisis,” they still “don’t fully capture employment despair,” said Darrick Hamilton, an economist and executive director for the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University.

“The race-related differences have not completely come to light given the abruptness and manner in which this employment crisis emerged,” Hamilton said.

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Hispanics posted the highest unemployment rate, 18.9 percent, in April, compared with 16.7 percent for blacks, 14.5 percent for Asians and 14.2 percent for whites — record highs for all groups except for blacks.

In February, before the shutdown, 4.4 percent of Hispanics, 5.8 percent of blacks, 2.5 percent of Asians and 3.1 percent of whites were unemployed.
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The economic crisis gathered beginning in mid-March, when restaurants, hotels and other businesses shuttered as mayors and governors issued stay-at-home orders to stem the spread of the coronavirus. Some economists expect to see the black and Hispanic unemployment rate continue to rise faster than that of whites, even as states begin to reopen their economies in the coming weeks. Great Depression Great Depression Great DepressionGreat Depression Great Depression