Do Federal Job Plans Work for African Americans?

Do Federal Job Plans Work for African Americans?


African Americans saw just a little improvement in the economy as their unemployment rate ticked down from 16.0% in September to 15.1% in October – at least according to the the jobs situation report released last week by the U.S. Department of Labor. The number of African Americans reported as employed rose to 15,332,000 in October, up from 15,209,000 in September.

For what it’s worth, at least it’s going up rather than down. Here’s more potential spin for the White House (Mr. Axelrod: look for an invoice in the mail) from the Labor Department, particularly as far as labor force participation. In October, approximately 18,052,000 African Americans were included in the labor force. Of this total, 15,332,000 African Americans were employed, representing 85% of the labor force.

The labor force is made up of individuals between the ages of 16 and 65 who are willing and able to work, and were seeking work within four weeks of being surveyed by the Labor Department.

In September, there were 15,209,000 African Americans employed, out of a labor force of 18,103,000.

As unemployment hovers at 9% overall, obviously the 2012 election won’t be about anything other than the economy. President Obama and Congress (Democrats and Republicans alike) will all be on the hot seat for economic performance in general, and level of unemployment in particular. Republicans, who hope to capture the Senate as well as maintain their control of the House, will continue to regurgitate the argument that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, an $800 billion stimulus package, was largely ineffective.

Depending on how the parties spin the numbers, the Obama Administration could be viewed by the African American community as either saviors of the economy or wreckers of Black employment.

For example, between February 2007 and February 2009, the percentage of the African American labor force that was employed was approximately 92%. That percentage held steady through February 2008 by the time of President Obama’s first days in office. By August 2008, the percentage of the African American labor force holding a job dipped below 90% for the first time, and continued to fall to 86% by February 2009, the month the ARRA was signed and put into effect. So over 24 months, the percentage of the labor force that was employed fell 6.5%.

After the Act went into effect, the percentage of the African American labor force that was employed fell by 1.1% from February 2009 to October 2011. And while there are more African Americans in the labor force now (18,052,000) versus February 2009 (17,716,000), the increase has not been steady with African Americans tip-toeing into the labor markets, determining that it was too cold, and leaving again.

President Obama would like to reignite the labor market through another stimulus package, the American Jobs Act. Republicans aren’t too keen on letting Mr. Obama remove that arrow from his quiver, however.

The bill is an admirable mix of credits for employers hiring military veterans; infrastructure and school modernization funding; which would provide credits to employers that hire military veterans; generate employment by funding infrastructure and the modernization of schools; and wireless broadband access expansion. But, it stands little chance of getting past the Republican controlled House. Right now, it’s currently buried in the House Subcommittee on Insurance, Housing, and Community Opportunity.