WASHINGTON - Black leaders said on Friday that the rise in unemployment among Blacks revealed in the latest jobs report is nothing short of a “state of emergency” as they implore President Barack Obama to tackle the issue.
The Labor Department released the August jobs report today showing that while unemployment figures remained unchanged from July's 9.1 percent. Black unemployment climbed to 16.7 percent. This is the highest its been since 1984.
The unemployment rate for Black males rose a whole percentage point to 18.0 percent and the rate for Black youths aged 16–19 jumped from 39.2 to 46.5 percent.
The August jobs report was dismal for plenty of reasons, but perhaps most striking was the picture it painted of racial inequality in the job market, writes the Chicago Tribune.
Experts say this information strengthens the argument of Black lawmakers that there is a critical need to specifically address this problem.
“This is not necessarily President Obama’s fault – but right now, this is his watch. He has to address this issue,” BET founder Robert Johnson said .
Johnson called on the president to specifically mention Black unemployment in his remarks to the joint session of Congress next week.
“I think that the African-American community would welcome a phrase in his speech that says, ‘I am particularly concerned about the consequences of this economic situation…for minority Americans,’” said Johnson. “I think the white community would understand that phrase, coming from the first African-American president. I don’t think he should be shy at all.”
The Congressional Black Caucus issued a statement Friday blaming Republicans for the poor jobs figure in the Black community.
“Republican leadership has neglected to address unemployment in any meaningful way,” said Congressional Black Caucus chairman Emanuel Cleaver.
Cleaver added, “Time and again they have continued to pass cuts on the house floor which will deny our children with vital education opportunities, eliminating programs that help families most in need, job training programs, and threaten the livelihood of American families.”
"This month's numbers continue to bear out that longstanding pattern that minorities have a much more challenging time getting jobs," said Bill Rodgers, chief economist with the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University.
According to William Darity, an economist at Duke University, the Black unemployment rate may be in part attributed to more people feeling less discouraged about finding employment and reentering the workforce to jumpstart their job searches, Still, he says, it is also a sign of the discrimination that continues to exist in the labor market.
Georgia Tech Thomas Boston agrees that's a part of the problem, particularly given the fact that Blacks comprise just 12 percent of the labor market but 22 percent of the unemployed. He also said that the unemployment burden is shifting from whites to African-Americans whose job losses are almost equal to white job gains.
"Part of it also is where Blacks are situated in the market. They have the kinds of jobs that are the first to be affected when the economy sneezes," Boston explains. "We also have an economy that isn't creating jobs for people with low levels of education and Blacks are heavily concentrated in that group. All of this points to an historical pattern of discrimination, which puts Blacks in a situation where they're the first to experience downturns in the economy."