The U.S. Department of Labor reported that the unemployment rate for African Americans fell slightly to 15.3% in February 2011 from 15.7% in January 2011. In the meantime, the labor participation rate for Blacks was 61.7% in February 2011, the same rate for the previous month.
The labor participation rate measures the percentage of people between the ages of 16 and 64 who are either employed or looking for work.
Although the actual number of people no longer in the labor force has been increasing since November 2010, this number increased at a lower rate between February 2011 and January 2011 versus the rate of increase between January 2011 and December 2010.
For example, the number of African Americans not in the labor force was approximately 11.11 million. This was up .19% from the 11.09 million African Americans reported as not participating in the labor force in January 2011. The number of African Americans not in the labor force in December 2010 was approximately 10.94 million. Between December 2010 and January 2011, the number of Blacks not in the labor force increased 1.4%.
Economists always raise the concern that declines in the unemployment rate may be a reflection of discouraged workers leaving the workforce. When an out-of-work person gives up a job search, they are not even counted among the unemployed because they are no longer in the labor force. This may not have been the case in February since the labor participation rate held steady while the unemployment rate fell.
As for the actual number of African Americans employed, there has been an increase, albeit slight. According to the Labor department, 15.12 million African Americans were employed in February 2011, up from 15.05 million African Americans in January.
The economy saw job increases in the areas of machinery, fabricated metal products, and construction. Healthcare continued adding jobs at a pace of 22,000 a month. There were also increases in the areas of transportation and warehousing. Employment in state and local government, however, continued to see a decline.
The decline in state and local government may not bode well for African Americans since approximately 15.6% of employed Blacks work in this sector.