College-educated African Americans are having a hard time advancing their careers in the worst turnaround in the labor market in 25 years. Since the economic downturn of 2001, black professionals haven’t been able to hold on to highly skilled jobs as they had done in previous recessions, according to the National Urban League’s quarterly Jobs Report.
Released 34 months after the recession started, the report notes that African Americans have a higher unemployment rate than whites and remain out of work longer despite the recovery. As of December 2003, the unemployment rate for college-educated whites was 2.6% and the rate for their African American counterparts was 4.1%. By comparison, 34 months into the 1990 recession, the rates for white and African American college graduates were 3.0% and 3.9% respectively.
Statistics show the black unemployment rate still soars above the 7.6% level of February 2001. The overall U.S. unemployment rate was 5.7% in December 2003, but the black unemployment rate was 10.3%. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the general jobless rate decreased to 5.6% in January 2004, while the black unemployment rate increased to 10.5%.
Minorities represent a higher share of the long-term unemployed: 29.5% African American versus 21.1% white. Moreover, white households saw only a 1.7% drop in their median household income in the first two years of the recession, while blacks lost 3.0%.
Hoping to tackle the issues of unemployment and job creation, NUL plans to convene a summit. “We want to come up with some real solutions. Why has this recession disproportionately affected African American workers, and what can we do about it? We’ve got to work to fix this problem,” says President Marc H. Morial. “We have a jobs crisis in America’s cities today and in America’s black communities.”
NUL’s call for a job summit is a useful approach, says Dr. Margaret Simms, senior vice president for programs at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies in Washington, D.C., and member of the BLACK ENTERPRISE Board of Economists. From campaigns for president and Congress to contests for state and local offices, jobs will be a key issue in this fall’s elections, she adds.