Washington Report: Updates from Capitol Hill

African American jobless rate; Making college affordable

African American Unemployment Rate Climbed in March

The March jobs report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics today shows that the economy is in a slow, but certain recovery. But while 162,000 jobs were added to the nation’s payrolls, the report didn’t bring any good news for African Americans. The unemployment rate for blacks rose from 15.8% to 16.2%. Overall, unemployment held steady at 9.7%.

Thomas Boston, a Georgia Tech economics professor who sits on the BE Board of Economists, attributes the increase to blacks being stuck in the old “first fired, last hired” syndrome, “that we historically haven’t been able to overcome.” In addition, a large percentage of firms are hiring or rehiring people to work only part-time and also becoming more efficient.

Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Rep. Barbara Lee (D-California) said that black unemployment figures are unacceptably high and “undergird the continued importance for legislation to directly create more jobs for unemployed Americans, particularly the chronically unemployed.”

Boston explained that the jobless number remained the same because almost 400,000 people returned to the labor market and either got a job or are actively seeking one. According to him, that’s good news.

The White House cheered the numbers, pointing out that their policies to boost the economy are working.

“Even after adjusting for the 48,000 temporary Census workers hired and a rebound effect from the February snowstorms, this number suggests an increase in underlying payroll employment,” said Christina Romer, who chairs the Council of Economic Advisors.

Before the report came out, critics — including Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele – were lining up to predict that any gains would be due to temporary workers hired to help conduct the 2010 Census. After the numbers were released Steele said “it is unacceptable for President [Barack] Obama to declare economic success when unemployment remains at 9.7% and a large portion of the job growth came from temporary boost in government employment.”

The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks and over) increased by 414,000 over the month to 6.5 million. In March, 44.1% of unemployed persons were jobless for 27 weeks or more. Temporary help services added 40,000 jobs in March. Since September 2009, temporary help services employment has risen by 313,000.

Employment in healthcare continued to increase in March, with the largest gains occurring in ambulatory healthcare services and in nursing and residential care facilities.

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