WASHINGTON (NNPA) – The unemployment rate for Blacks fell from 13.7 percent in June to 12.6 percent in July, the lowest jobless rate for Blacks since January 2009, according to the latest jobs report from the Labor Department.

Although economists warn against being too optimistic about one month’s jobs numbers, some economists found it unusual for the Black unemployment rate to fall more than a percentage point from June to July, as the jobless rate for Whites remained stagnant at 6.6 percent.

The unemployment rate for Black men over 20 was 13 percent in June and 12.5 percent in July. The jobless rate for White men over 20 was 6.2 percent in June and rose slightly to 6.3 percent in July.

The unemployment rate for Black women over 20 plummeted from 12 percent in June to 10.5 percent in July. The jobless rate for White women over 20 dipped from 6 percent to 5.8 percent over the same time period.

The national unemployment rate fell from 7.6 percent in June to 7.4 percent in July and the economy added 162,000 jobs. Analysts at the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank focused on the needs of low- and middle-income workers, estimate that it will take at least six years to reach full employment at this rate of job creation.

Despite falling more than a percentage point, the jobless rate for Blacks is still nearly double the unemployment rate for Whites, a troubling statistic that has persisted for 50 years. According to EPI, “The average unemployment rate for blacks over the past 50 years, at 11.6 percent, is considerably higher than the average rate during recessions of 6.7 percent. In only one year (1969), did the black unemployment rate dip slightly below the recession average to 6.4
percent. Thus, over the last 50 years, the black unemployment rate has been at a level typical for a recession or higher.”

William Darity, a professor of economics and African and African American studies at Duke University in Durham, N.C. said, “The racial unemployment gap is a direct index of discrimination.” 

In an effort to combat the inherent discrimination that exists in hiring and employment practices in the job market, Darity has long advocated for a federally-funded program called the “National Investment Employment Corps,” that guarantees a job for every American 18 years or older. Darity said that the federal job guarantee proposal doesn’t presume that the reason why so many Black people are out of work is because there is something wrong with them.

“The major reason that people are out of work is because there is not enough jobs out there,” said Darity. “If one group has the capacity to get privileged access to the available jobs, they will do it and that’s what is happening.”

Funding the job guarantee program would require shifting resources from other anti-poverty programs, programs that Darity and others believe won’t be as necessary as people start earning living wages on jobs that would address the “nation’s physical and human infrastructure, from building roads, bridges, dams and schools, to staffing high quality day care.”

Darity said that supporters for the National Investment Employment Corps drawing inspiration from American history. The Works Progress Administration, introduced during the Great Depression, provided more than 8 million jobs from 1935 to 1943, building bridges, parks, and schools across the nation.

“We know how to do this, we’ve done it before in the U.S.,” said Darity. The WPA program even funded jobs for music, media and literacy projects for artists. “Under circumstances where people are disturbed about the idea of paying people not to work, why don’t we introduce a program that pays people to work?”

According to Darity, the federally-funded job guarantee program has received support from both ends of the political spectrum and Rep. Jon Conyers (D-Mich.) introduced a bill that could jumpstart talks about the program in March 2013.

Darity said: “There is a potential appeal of this kind of policy that bridges the political divide, but people simply are not talking about it very much.”


Freddie Allen

NNPA Washington Correspondent