Black Unemployment Still High Despite Rate Decrease

While the unemployment rate seems to be taking a slight turn for the better, in the African American community joblessness is still a problem.

The jobless rate for African Americans decreased slightly from 15.7% to 15.6%, but it increased for certain categories of blacks, including among men and youth, according to the November employment report released by the Labor Department Friday.  The total unemployment rate slowed to 10%, down from 10.2% in October.

“The good news is that nearly all groups have slight declines in unemployment, however the unemployment rate for black males went from 18.2 to 18.8%,” says Algernon Austin, director of the program on race, ethnicity, and the economy at the Economic Policy Institute. “That just underscores the difficulty that black males experience in the labor market generally and during this recession in particular. Even in good times many blacks in many communities have a difficult time finding work.”

President Barack Obama noted at the White House Forum on Jobs and Economic Growth Thursday, that although his plan has taken a lot of criticism, some 1.6 million jobs have been created from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and job losses have diminished as well. Hilda L. Solis, Secretary of Labor agreed, stating Friday that the economy is growing “faster than at any time” in the last two years. In fact, although black unemployment is high, the unemployment ratio of blacks relative to whites is 1.67 to 1, a decrease from its normal level of 2 to 1.

“Since President Obama has taken office, the unemployment rate for African Americans, relative to whites, has remained at historically low levels,” said assistant labor secretary William Spriggs, a member of the BE Board of Economists. “More importantly, our figures today show that the share of African Americans who are employed has increased, but we will continue to provide training opportunities that will lead to more and better jobs in the near future..”

Still, unemployment among black teens, aged 16-19 has risen to almost 50%. Austin says that more spending is needed on infrastructure, public service jobs, and jobs programs to put people at work to repair declining black communities, which were hit hard by foreclosures. In addition, he says that the federal government has been creating jobs, but state and local governments have been cutting jobs.

“The Department of Labor is committed to expanding opportunities for all working Americans–including the nation’s African American community–through our Workforce Investment Act training and other programs,” said Solis.

The EPI’s Austin agreed.

“Our economic situation would be much worse if we didn’t have the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act,” says Austin. “Although the recovery package has produced jobs, it was just not large enough to cope with the scale of the job losses that we have experienced.”

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