Believe It or Not, Black Unemployment Fell … Barely

Believe It or Not, Black Unemployment Fell … Barely


While there’s outrage in Washington and beyond over unbearable Black unemployment rates, recent jobless numbers show a new tale White House spin doctors are sure to push. For the second straight month, the number of African Americans in the labor force increased as the unemployment rate slightly decreased.  The U.S. Department of Labor last Friday reported that unemployment for Blacks fell to 16.0% in September from 16.7% reported in August.

It’s not much to scream about since the Black unemployment rate is nearly double the national average. So far, Obama Administration policies have not hit pay dirt, particularly for the long-term unemployed, a number many economists argue is not reflected in the monthly Labor Department surveys.

Crunching the Labor Department numbers further, there were 18,103,000 blacks in the labor force in September.  That’s in contrast to 17,930,000 blacks willing and able to work – within four weeks of the Labor Department‘s survey.

According to the federal government, the number of African Americans employed in September was 15,209,000, up from the August total of 14,941,000.

Still, the unemployment rate for Hispanic Americans has been unchanged for three straight months, holding at 11.3%. Latinos, however, some some saw increased participation in the labor force and the ranks of the employed.

The rates of employment are barely registering on any scale worth noting.  In September, the number of Hispanic Americans in the labor force was 22,993,000, up from the August total of 22,917,000.  The number of employed Hispanics in September was 20,389,000, reflecting an increase from the August total of 20,332,000.

For the White House, it’s a sobering statistic considering aggressive efforts by President Obama to curry favor with the Latino electorate.

The overall unemployment rate for the nation remained unchanged at 9.1%.  Like the Black population, the number of employed rose between the months of August and September.  The Labor Department reported that 140,025,000 Americans were employed in September, up from a August total of 139,627,000.

So where, exactly, was the growth? Healthcare and construction.

According to the Labor Department, professional and business services saw a gain of 48,000 jobs between August and September.  Healthcare jobs increased by 44,000 over the same period, while the number of construction jobs increased by 26,000.

Government employment, long a steady source of minority employment continued to fall, as local and state governments continued moving forward with budget cutting measures that shed 34,000 public sector jobs.

Manufacturing continued two straight months of flat results, with the sector shedding 13,000 jobs.

Labor secretary Hilda Solis took the opportunity to put a positive spin on the job numbers report. “We’ve now created 2.6 million jobs over 19 consecutive months of private sector growth,” said Solis, predictably.

“The policies this administration has pursued have added jobs back into the economy, but we need them to work faster and on an even bigger scale. We know what works: cutting payroll taxes for workers and businesses, extending unemployment insurance benefits and making smart investments in the American worker. Now is not the time to abandon these proven pro-growth policies.”

The real number to look at every month is the long-term unemployed – those without a job  for 27 or more weeks. It’s the reason why it appears Black unemployment is falling when, instead, there are just more African Americans who are unemployed longer and not registering on any data-driven radar. That increased to 6,242,000 in September.  The number of long-term unemployed dipped to 6,034,000 in August after hitting 6,185,000 in July.

In addition, the average number of weeks that Americans are out of work has been increasing.  In September, the average number of weeks that unemployed Americans have been out of work was 40.5.  This past June saw that average around 39.9 weeks, and by August the number edged up to 40.3.

As expected, Republicans took advantage of the announcement to pounce on the White House. “Our unemployment rate has been higher than eight percent for more than two-and-a-half years, far above what the Obama Administration promised with the ‘stimulus,'” said House Speaker John Boehner.

“For many groups, including teenagers, Hispanics, and African Americans, the jobless rate is even higher,” added Boehner in a clever attempt at driving a wedge between the President and his loyal base of color. “These sad numbers show that more Washington spending, threats of higher taxes on small businesses, and excessive government regulations don’t create a healthy environment for job growth.”

Congressional Black Caucus chairman Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), assessed the impact of the current political climate in Washington on policies that could grow the economy.

By now, we should all understand the stagnant economic condition in which our country finds itself. The economy will only continue to worsen if we do not act quickly to address it,” said Cleaver. “With 9.1% overall unemployment and African American unemployment slightly decreasing from 16.7% to 16%, both remain astronomically high. I never thought I would see the day that politics trumped legislative productivity—providing policy solutions that create opportunities for the American people so that they can care for themselves and their families.


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