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Vol. 76/No. 27      July 23, 2012

African-Americans hit hardest
by persistently high joblessness
The official June employment figures show persistently high unemployment and a worsening situation for workers who are African-American.

The official unemployment rate for June is 8.2 percent, unchanged from the previous month. For Blacks it rose to 14.4 percent from 13 percent two months earlier.

The real disparity is even greater, as a higher proportion of African-Americans are not officially considered part of the labor force and therefore not included in calculations of the jobless rate. Among those not counted are “marginally attached” workers who, according to the Labor Department, haven’t looked for a job in the last four weeks.

As a result of these manipulations, the percentage of the working-age population counted in the labor force has declined overall from 65.7 percent in January 2009 to 63.8 percent this past June, masking the real state of joblessness. For Blacks, the official “labor force participation rate” stands at 62 percent, masking it even more.

“A comparison of jobs data between the start and end of 2011 shows the ranks of the unemployed fell by 822,000 while the number of people not in the labor force grew by a larger 1.24 million,” stated a July 6 Wall Street Journal article titled “Unemployment Line Longer Than It Looks.”

Last year the Las Vegas and Los Angeles areas had the highest Black unemployment rates, at 22.6 percent and 21.1 percent respectively, noted a report issued by the Economic Policy Institute in early July that examined the status of jobless African-Americans in 19 major metropolitan areas. Chicago’s rate was 19.1 percent and Detroit’s 18.1 percent.

Minneapolis-St. Paul has the largest Black-Caucasian unemployment rate disparity of all 19 areas. At 17.7 percent its Black unemployment rate is 3.3 times that for Caucasians.

In New York City, more than half of all working-age African-Americans have not had a job this year, according to the Labor Department. When Black workers lose jobs there, they spend a year, on average, trying to find new jobs, longer than any other category, reported the New York Times.

The nationwide unemployment figure has been above 8 percent for more than three years, while the Labor Department’s U-6 alternative unemployment rate—which includes so-called discouraged workers and millions forced to work part-time—is much higher. In June it stood at 14.9 percent.

Meanwhile, unemployment payments for millions of workers could end in December with the cutoff of federal programs extending these benefits. In some states payments are already being cut off as state governments report unemployment rates too low to qualify for the federal extension.

In New Jersey, for example, where the official unemployment rate was 9.2 percent in May, payments were ended to 26,000 jobless workers the first week in July. Another 100,000 will be cut from the unemployment rolls there by the end of the year, reported the New Jersey Star-Ledger.

Official jobless figures will decline as a result because many of these workers will no longer be counted as part of the labor force after they stop receiving unemployment compensation.  
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