The unemployment rate for African Americans inched slightly lower to 15.4% in June from 15.5% in May, according to the Department of Labor. The overall U.S. jobless rate fell to 9.5% in June from 9.7% in May, reflecting a decrease of 225,000 jobs in the number of temporary employees working for the Census.
“When I look at reports that give me an estimation of where we’re going in terms of our recovery, I can see that we’re slowly coming back,” Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis told reporters in a Friday morning conference call. “Certainly it’s not happening as quickly as I’d like, but I think that overall we’re in much better shape than economies around the world right now.”
Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele wasn’t convinced. “For the millions of American families that are continuing to struggle, no amount of White House spin can cast 9.5% unemployment in a positive light,” Steele said. “All businesses are seeing are higher taxes, higher interest rates, more regulation, and more uncertainty.”
Solis emphasized the need for African Americans and Latinos in particular to take advantage of opportunities to develop and enhance their skills so that they can participate in emerging industries such as the green, renewable energy sector and healthcare technology.
“The real urgency here is the competition. If the African American and Latino communities together don’t get engaged in getting more education and skills training, they are going to be left out of the job market,” Solis warned. “Right now the global market is so wide and broad that we can’t stand to lose anymore jobs to overseas competitors.”
Total nonfarm payroll employment decreased by 125,000 and private-sector payroll employment edged up by 83,000, an improvement from May. So far this year, private-sector employment has increased by 593,000 but in June it was 7.9 million below its December 2007 level. The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks and over) was unchanged at 6.8 million. These individuals made up 45.5% of unemployed persons.
About 14.6 million people were looking for work in June. Counting people who are no longer looking for a job and those who are working part time but would prefer full-time work, the underemployment rate edged down to 16.5% from 16.6% in May.
Jobs in healthcare continued to trend upward, adding 9,000 jobs in June. Over the past 12 months, the sector has gained 217,000 jobs. Mining employment added 6,000 positions and the manufacturing sector added 9,000 jobs.
Construction employment decreased by 22,000 in June, with the largest decline in nonresidential specialty trade contracting. But Solis said that the nation will soon experience what President Barack Obama is calling a “summer of recovery” due to several thousand construction and infrastructure projects that will soon hit the ground.
–Joyce Jones contributed to this article.