Blacks in the labor force

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February is Black History Month, when we celebrate the contributions of Blacks or African Americans. In 2016, Blacks accounted for nearly 1 out of 8 people in the labor force. And the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that share to increase slightly from 2016 to 2026 as the labor force continues to become more diverse.

This article provides an overview of Blacks in the labor force, including their participation rates, educational attainment, and employment in occupations.

Changes in population and in the labor force

In 2016, there were 253.5 million people ages 16 or older in the U.S. civilian noninstitutionalized population. Of those, about 31.9 million (12.6 percent) were Black. That number is projected to grow to nearly 36.0 million, or 12.9 percent of about 278.2 million people, by 2026.

The labor force—noninstitutionalized people ages 16 and older who are not in the military and who are working or looking for work—is a subset of the population. The number of Blacks in the labor force is projected to increase from 19.6 million in 2016 (12.3 percent of the 159.2 million total) to 21.6 million in 2026 (12.7 percent of 169.7 million total).

As chart 1 shows, Blacks’ labor force growth outpaced their population growth in the 1976–86 and 1986–96 decades, leveling off and slowing after that. This group’s annual growth rates in both population and the labor force are projected to be slower over the 2016–26 decade than over the four previous decades.

To read the rest of this article, review the information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Last modified: 02/09/2022

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