Is the Black Unemployment Rate Really Dropping?

Lauren Victoria Burke

By Lauren Victoria Burke: Posted 2 days ago


Is the Black Unemployment Rate Really Dropping?

The Black unemployment rate dropped one full point last month to 13% — the second lowest number for Black unemployment since President Barack Obama took office in 2009.  When President Obama entered the White House in January 2009, Black unemployment was 12.7%.  The highest Black unemployment rate during Obama’s time in office was 16.7% in August 2011.

During the eight years President George W. Bush was President the Black unemployment number never rose above 13%.  The rate reached its highest point of the Bush presidency, 12.1%, in December 2008.

The overall unemployment rate improved in April to 8.1% with 115,000 jobs added according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  The unemployment rate was 8.2% in March.

After a big drop in the Black unemployment rate in January — the biggest since March 2009 — Black unemployment appears to be improving greatly.   In January 2012, the Black unemployment rate was tabulated to be 13.6% by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  It was 15.8% in December of 2011.  In February, 227,000 jobs were added to the U.S. economy yet the Black unemployment rate rose to 14.1% from 13.6%.

Though the unemployment rate for Black Americans has been roughly double the number for Whites since 1972, Black unemployment reached a particularly high spike in 2011.  The unemployment rate reached a stratospheric 27 year high in August 2011 at 16.7% — easily on of the highest sectors of unemployment in the U.S.   It was the highest rate for Blacks since Ronald Reagan was in office.

The lower rates at which Blacks get in to college coupled with high dropout rates and the fact that Blacks live in places hardest hit by the recession are factors in the continuing spike in unemployment for African Americans.  The Black male high school dropout rate is estimated to be at an incredible 70% in some cities with over 100,000 Black males dropping out of high school a year.  About 1.2 million students dropout of high school each year in the U.S. overall.

When the Black jobless rate improved in January no one could figure out why.  Rep. Allen West (D-FL) said the numbers were suspect at the time.  “If the national average only went down two tenths of a percentage point then how could — all of these 240,000 new jobs must have come from in the Black community…” West said at the time.  Could the books have been cooked?  ”No way,” said senior CBC member and former Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Ed Towns (D-NY). “There are way too many people involved,” he added.

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