Black Unemployment Drops to Record Low

July saw lowest level of joblessness during Obama administration

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According to the latest jobs report from the Labor Department, from June to July unemployment numbers for Blacks fell from 13.7 percent to 12.6 percent. This is the lowest rate for Blacks since President Obama was sworn into office in January of 2009.

Although some economists warn not to be too thrilled with one month’s jobs numbers, others found it unusual that the black unemployment fell more than one percentage point, while the rate for white Americans has stalled at 6.6%. Comparatively, unemployment for black men over 20 was 12.5 percent in July, compared to white men of the same age group at 6.3 percent.

From June to July, the economy added 162,000 jobs. Analysts at the Economic Policy Institute estimate that it will take six years to reach full employment at this rate of job creation. The Washington, D.C. based think tank focuses on the needs of low- and middle-income workers. Jobs created last month saw gains in retail trade, food services and drinking places, financial activities, and wholesale trade.

Despite the rise, the jobless rate is still almost double that of their White counterparts, a statistic that has remained for half a century. “The average unemployment rate for blacks over the past 50 years, at 11.6%, is considerably higher than the average rate during recessions of 6.7%,” according to the EPI. “In only one year (1969), did the black unemployment rate dip slightly below the recession average to 6.4 percent. Thus, over the last 50 years, the black unemployment rate has been at a level typical for a recession or higher.”

William Darity, a professor of economics and African American studies at Duke University, believes that the unemployment gap is directly a result of racial discrimination. He has long stood for a federally-funded program called the “National Investment Employment Corps,” which guarantees jobs to every citizen 18 years of age and older.

This program is reminiscent of President Roosevelt’s “Works Progress Administration,” which was introduced during the Great Depression of the 1930s and provided more than 8 million jobs from 1935 to 1943.

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