The race gap in US employment has disappeared for one age group: workers 65 and over

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has reported that the employment gap between Black and white US workers aged 65 and over has drastically reduced. Analysis of the employment-to-population ratio, which refers to the proportion of employed individuals in the total working-age population, has shown that the gap has shrunk from 1.3 to 0.8 in the past decade. 

However, a deeper examination reveals that the decreased gap is, in part, attributed to more white Americans retiring from the labor force. This is due to the fact that the average white worker is nearly four years older than the average Black worker, as stated by the BLS. Russell Weaver, the director of research for the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations Buffalo Co-Lab, speculated that some individuals over 65 may continue working out of necessity. 

The recent labor shortages have been advantageous in narrowing race employment gaps and helping minority workers to secure jobs. Employers have experienced challenges in filling certain low-wage positions over the past few years, making them more willing to fill slots quickly without racial discrimination in hiring practices. Historically, Black employment levels have suffered due to hiring discrimination and mass incarceration. However, the employment rate of Black women compared to White women has increased, which may be more out of necessity than choice, as mentioned by Weaver in an interview with Quartz.

 Despite the progress made for older workers, the gap between Black and white Americans and other age groups persists. Discrimination based on both age and race may affect those between 54-to-64 years of age. For prime-age workers between 25 to 64 years old, the gap continues to narrow as the employment rate of Black Americans surpasses pre-pandemic levels from February 2020. Though a tight labor market could be partially responsible for this, it is whether these workers have access to more high-quality jobs. 

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