Business

Blacks Rejoining the Labor Market

Valerie Wilson would like to good numbers over a longer period (NNPA Photo by Freddie Allen)
Valerie Wilson (NNPA Photo by Freddie Allen)

By Freddie Allen
NNPA Senior Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – The Black unemployment rate rose to 11.1 percent in November, according to the latest jobs report from Labor Department, because of increasing optimism in the economy.

The Black unemployment rate rose from 10.9 percent in October to 11.1 percent and the jobless rate for Whites increased slightly from 4.8 percent to 4.9 percent in November.

The unemployment rate for Black men also increased from 10.7 percent in October to 11.2 percent. The share of Black men that either held jobs or looking for work in November, the labor force participation rate, fell from 67.7 percent in October to 67.1 percent last month.

The jobless rate for White men increased from 4.2 percent to 4.6 percent, the labor force rate was flat at 71.8, and the employment-population ratio declined from 68.7 percent to 68.6 percent.

Even though the unemployment rate for Black women increased from 9.4 percent in October to 9.6 percent in November, William Spriggs, an economics professor at Howard University and chief economist at AFL-CIO, a labor group that represents 12.5 million workers, said that that labor force participation rate for Black women over 20 years old continues to go up.

The employment-population ratio, the share of the population of Black women that hold jobs, was 55.1 percent in January 2014 and compared to 56.1 percent in November. The labor force rate for Black women was 61.5 percent in January. The unemployment rate for Black women was 10.4 percent.

Valerie Rawlston Wilson, director of the Economic Policy Institute’s Program on Race, Ethnicity, and the Economy at the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank focused fiscal policies that affect low- and middle-income families, said that as the economy continues to grow and the labor market continues to grow, we still have to make investments for those who face challenges with gaining employment.

“That includes providing adequate training, addressing the issue of re-entry and the barriers that ex-offenders face and the significant unemployment gap between Black youth and White youth,” said Wilson. “That includes providing adequate training, addressing the issue of re-entry and the barriers that ex-offenders face and the significant unemployment gap between Black youth and White youth.”

Wilson said that access to enter the labor force and to get early work experience, whether that’s a part-time job in retail or fast food or something more career directed like apprentice programs, will be essential for Black teenagers.

“We’re finally seeing enough jobs, where people are getting optimistic to pull them back into the labor market,” said Spriggs. “That’s a good sign.”

Spriggs explained, “The numbers are good because it means the labor market is on solid ground, it’s growing in a healthy way and the big worry is federal reserve policy. The [federal reserve bank] has to wait until real wages grow and savings get built back up the positive way.”

At 11.1 percent, the Black unemployment rate continues to hover around twice the national average (5.8 percent), a trend that goes back nearly 50 years.

“It’s caused in large by part by discrimination,” said Spriggs. He said part of the difficulty in the recovery for Black employment is that we had such a backlog of job needs.The surest cure of anti-discrimination is full employment, said Spriggs.

“‘If I think I can kill you, without giving a thought to that, do you think I’m going to be fair in hiring you?’” asked Spriggs. “I don’t even have to be fair about letting you live. If I don’t have to be fair about letting you breathe, why do you think I’m going to be fair about whether you need a job whether you need money?”

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