Report: Black Unemployment Remained Steady in 2011

A new study by UC Berkeley credits the recession and loss of public sector jobs as reasons the rate stayed relatively constant. 

Posted: 01/19/2012 12:10 PM EST

Months have passed, the weather has changed, but Black unemployment has remained steady.

According to a new study by UC Berkeley, the Annual Report: Black Employment and Unemployment in 2011, over the last year the unemployment rate for African-Americans has stayed almost exactly the same. Overall in 2011, Americans saw a decreasing unemployment rate dropping from 9.1 percent in January 2011 to 8.5 percent in December. For African-Americans, however, in January 2011, the unemployment rate stood at 15.7 percent and in December, it was 15.8 percent.

Despite changes in underlying factors of unemployment, including employment level and the number of people in the labor force, there was virtually “no movement” in African-American’s official rate.

“The jobs gap between Black and white workers is a story that we’ve seen for more than 50 years, but this report shows that unemployment rates for Black workers have not fallen as much as they have for their white and Latino counterparts,” said Steven Pitts, a labor policy specialist at the center and author of the report.

According to the report, many factors have contributed to the stubbornly high unemployment rate of Blacks, including the loss of public sector jobs. Since the beginning of the recession, at least 600,000 public sector jobs have been sacrificed for budget cuts. As a result, because “about one in five Black workers have public sector jobs, and African-American workers are one-third more likely than white ones to be employed in the public sector,” it’s no surprise that layoffs have fallen the heaviest on Blacks.

Economists also point to the younger age of the African-American workforce, the larger number living in low-income areas hit hard by the recession and the lower number of college graduates as reasons the rate remains high.

Whatever the reason, let’s hope that 2012 yields better opportunity for all.

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 (Photo: Jim Baron/MCT/Landov)

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