Joblessness among African Americans constitutes the largest population of individuals out of work. And, in the nation’s capital where finding jobs might become easier, the unemployment rate still hovers at just 10 percent.
For instance, in January the local rate had swelled to more than 12 percent, with just 16 states and the District having experienced higher jobless rates than the national average. At the same time, employment increased in 11 states and the District, and by March at 11.6 percent, the local numbers had begun to decline.
Nevertheless, according to Department of Employment Services data, the 9,600 jobs added in March continue to indicate signs of a recovery.
But At-Large Councilmember Kwame Brown, who has reacted with cautious optimism, said those signs of hope need to be nurtured with good policies.
“As evidenced by the increased unemployment rate, there are a lot of discouraged workers reentering the market and searching for jobs,” Brown said in a recent statement. “I’m optimistic and will look carefully at the state level data in a couple of weeks to see what impact it has on the District.”
Ward 8 Councilman Marion Barry said more employment opportunities will enhance security. Recent shootings in the city have involved Black males who are jobless, he said. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, more than half of Black males ages 16 to 19 are unemployed, while only 1 in 7 actually has a job.
“It’s bad,” Barry said of the city’s high unemployment rate and the number of young people between the ages of 18 and 24 unable to find work. “About 50 percent of the youth in my district who are eligible to work, can’t find jobs.”
The former mayor said one of the reasons he created the summer Youth Jobs Program nearly 40 years ago was to help keep youth out of trouble. He said that for years the program worked until people started taking advantage of the program for their own benefit.
Although the jobs picture looks more promising, “Mayor Fenty’s administration still needs to step up and help get this jobless issue under control,” Barry said.
Having created a slate of initiatives that will create more jobs in the city, the City Council is already poised to help alleviate the District’s problem. Among them are the “100 New Jobs for DC Residents”– an amendment to the agreement to attract Co-Star to DC, which requires 100 new jobs for D.C. residents before the company receives any incentives and the Get DC Residents Training for Jobs Now Act which provides $1.1 million for adult job training at three existing District school facilities to stay open nights and weekends.