(Reuters) – The gap in unemployment rates between Blacks and whites in the United States widened for a fourth straight month in August, and the spread between the races is now the largest in nearly six years.

The jobless rate for Blacks dropped by 1.6 percentage points to 13% in August from 14.6% in July, while the rate for whites dropped at a faster rate of 1.9 percentage points to 7.3% from 9.2% a month earlier. The overall U.S. unemployment rate fell more than expected last month to 8.4% from 10.2% in July.

The 5.7 percentage point gap was the widest since December 2014. One year earlier, in August 2019, the spread had been a record-low 2 percentage points. It was 2.5 points in April, when the U.S. economy shed a record 20.8 million jobs as a result of business shutdowns imposed to contain the spread of COVID-19.

The racial gap in U.S. jobless rates has come under closer scrutiny in the months since the pandemic struck as minorities and women suffered an outsized share of job losses, exacerbating long-standing economic inequality. The widening also occurs against a backdrop of protests against police violence against Blacks, which has become a central issue in the U.S. presidential election campaign.

Reporting by Dan Burns; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama

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