As National Unemployment Rate Stabilizes, Rate for African-Americans Rises Again

Monday, July 09, 2012
(AP Photo, Paul Sancya)
The June unemployment data released by the Department of Labor last week showed a disturbing rise in unemployment among African-Americans, from 13.6% to 14.4%, nearly double the rate for the white population, which was unchanged at 7.4%, and higher than the jobless rate for Latinos, which was also static at 11%.
These numbers actually understate the problem by not counting the underemployed, i.e., those who have stopped looking for work because they can’t find it and part-time workers who can’t find full-time work. When the government counts the underemployed, as part of its “U6” unemployment rate, the black rate is 22.8%, while the white rate is only 12.1%, and the Latino rate is 20.9%.
Unemployment rates among African-Americans have been consistently higher since at least the 1960s, when the government began collecting such data. In fact, over the past 50 years, the highest unemployment rates experienced by white workers have been about equal to the lowest unemployment rates experienced by black workers.
Economists like to blame poor neighborhoods with limited opportunities, bad schools leading to early drop-outs, and high ratios of felony convictions, which make employment harder. In fact all of these are mere symptoms of the institutionalized racism that exists in U.S. society. Algernon Austin, director of the race, ethnicity and economy program at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), points out that “There is still strong evidence of bias in the labor market,” noting research in which white job candidates seeking the same jobs as equally qualified blacks were more likely to be called for an interview or offered a job.
High unemployment is only one of the obstacles African-Americans face in the job market. A February 2011 EPI report found that in 2008 black men earned only 71% of what white men earned. Even after taking education into account, black men are overrepresented in low-wage jobs and underrepresented in high-wage jobs, and differences in skills and occupational interests could not explain the disparity. Another investigation found that median black household wealth in 2009 was only $2,200, compared to $97,900 among white families, meaning that white median wealth is now 44.5 times higher than black median wealth.
-Matt Bewig
To Learn More:
10% Unemployment Considered a Crisis…But for Black Workers, It’s Normal (by David Wallechinsky and Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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