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The Voice of the Black Community


Unemployment's down, black jobless up
Uptick does little to help African Americans
Published Friday, April 8, 2011 8:08 am
by Julianne Malveaux, NNPA

More than 200,000 jobs were created last month, 216,000 to be exact.  Coming after the February lift of more than 200,000 jobs, there are those who are saying that economic recovery is around the corner.  I don’t know what corner they are standing on, but the African American corner took a hit in March, and the black unemployment rate rose from 15.3 to 15.5 percent. No other racial/ethnic group saw unemployment rates rise.  Some will say the slight increase is statistically insignificant.

Try telling that to the African Americans who don’t have jobs, or to those who are not in the labor force.  Indeed, while the number of whites who had dropped out of the labor force went down, the number of African Americans out of the labor force went up.

The government is on the brink of closing down, with obstructionist tea party members determined to shrink the size of government no matter what. They have focused on government workers, but too many of these workers are African American, Latino, and female. Yes, an attack on government workers is an attack on equality, because those who work for governments are more likely to find a fair deal, have a good job, and be paid equitably.

The government is on the brink of closing down, but on their way to down time, they have not found time to introduce one piece of legislation that speaks to job creation. Given the numbers that we see this month, this really means they have been unwilling and unable to deal with the jobs crisis in the African American community, as the situation in other communities is getting better.

Better does not mean acceptable. There are 13.5 million officially unemployed people in our nation, and the number that have not worked for half a year has risen from 43.9 percent to 45.5 percent in the past month.  Labor force participation is at an all time low of 64.2 percent which means that too many people have left the labor force because they think they can’t find work, or they can’t afford to look. This is the story for all Americans, with the most severe measure of unemployment, the measure that accounts for those who work part time when they want full time work or are only “marginally attached” to the labor market, a whopping 15.7 percent. This means, in real terms, that nearly one in six of us is unemployed.

It gets worse, of course, for African Americans. The employment population ratio for adult black men, at 57.2 percent, is nearly 11 points lower than the employment population ratio for adult white men, at 68.0 percent.  In some communities, scarcely half of African American men are working. The same data that takes the overall population from 8.8 percent to 15.7 percent, takes the African American population from 15.5 percent to 27.6 percent, a Depression-era level unemployment rate.

Why is this OK?  Why has it sparked no national discussion? What does it mean that it is acceptable for the employment situation in an entire community can be imperiled? Why is it that nobody really cares?

There is joy in some quarters about the fact that significant employment has been created two months in a row. But, there is a cliché that says it takes more than a swallow to bring spring.  In other words, we first of all know that at the rate we are going, it is will take until 2018, seven years from now, for us to get back to the number of jobs we had in 2007. With populating growth, even then we won’t reach the unemployment rate of 5 percent that we experienced in December of 2007. 

Secondly, pessimistic economists, like former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, are suggesting that there is the possibility of a “double dip” recession, and that numbers could turn back down in a few months if more money is not pumped into the economy. Bankers are keeping their bailout money, having failed to address the foreclosure situation, or to lend small businesses money they need for inventory and revitalization.  They are cautiously waiting for better times, but what if Congress had exercised their caution on them? 

The bottom line is that while some data suggest economic recovery, the African American community is still riding on the back of the bus.  It will take targeted job creation programs to improve on the new unemployment numbers.  Is there anyone in Congress who will step up to say that these unacceptably high unemployment rates cannot continue?

JULIANNE MALVEAUX is president of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro.


I can't explain how happy I was that this article was printed. I recently relocated to Charlotte area and in the town we chose to live ,about 40miles South of Charlotte, appears to only have positions for blacks in Walmart and Popeyes. As I go through the town offices and County job buildings it appears that either no blacks applied or were not qualified for those position. (lol)... I know this is not true, because I am qualified,accomplished and have the skills to be hired in a number of positons posted. Yes I have applied, but the reply is always, "we went with another applicant". Yeah I know you did and that person certainly was not of an Africian American.

I want to shout from the Mountain top, "does anyone care? does anyone see what I see? and in this 21st Century is anyone going to do anything about it?"

Thank You!
Posted on April 24, 2013
Nothing has changed, blacks continue to suffer during periods of high un-employment unless our politicians take a serious look at hiring practices being utilized in this country (using Temp agencies) to choose, blacks will continue to lead the nation in high unemployment numbers now and in the future. Purchasing from black stores will not correct this problem.
Posted on July 14, 2011
Black unemployment is way up, yet on the opinion poll, 70% say they would vote for Obama again. Back to the plantation - but this time it's ok because the massa is black too.
Posted on April 15, 2011
"It will take targeted job creation programs to improve on the new unemployment numbers."
Duh, no... it will take getting the government regulations out of the way so that anyone can start and build a business and hire workers. Why is the fall-back always yet another government program, when the solution is so simple?
Posted on April 13, 2011
Building businesses and supporting them is an essential part of economic recovery. If we can every get over the "Willie Lynch" system of segregating ourselves from one another. Realizing the house,field and educated people of color must come together to survive.
Posted on April 10, 2011
"the view from the bottom" Ms. MALVEAUX ,people hire there own. Black employment will decrease when black men build some businesses , then we will be able to hire our children instead of competing with them for min. - wage jobs. When was the last time you spent $20.00 at a black store. " UH" ." IT CAN"T BE THAT SIMPLE." want to bet?
Posted on April 9, 2011

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