Valerie Jarrett Hails Lower Black Unemployment, Says Job Is Unfinished

A senior advisor to President Obama discusses the further steps needed to improve the joblessness picture for African-Americans.

Posted: 02/07/2012 08:26 AM EST
Valerie Jarrett, Unemployment, Barnard College, President Obama, U.S. Small Business Administration, Education

One of President Obama's closest advisors said that the administration is heartened by the decline in Black unemployment but added that much more needs to be done to solve what has been a longstanding problem in communities of color.

In an interview with BET.com, Valerie Jarrett said the administration is undertaking a wide and varied approach to lowering the high unemployment rate in the African-American community. But she added that it will continue to take time for the president’s initiatives to take hold.

“We’re heartened to see that Black unemployment did come down,” Jarrett said. “That’s a very important step in the right direction. But the president has a range of initiatives to ensure that we can tackle what has been a historical problem. It isn’t something that was created as a result of the last economic crisis. It was exacerbated by it. But it’s been a challenge for a long time.”

Last week, the United States Labor Department reported that the Black unemployment rate dropped from 15.8 to 13.6 percent, the lowest unemployment rate for African-Americans in almost three years.

A report by the Labor Department stated that unemployment among Black men declined from 15.7 to 12.7 percent. Similarly, the unemployment rate for Black women dropped from 13.9 to 12.6 percent.

Jarrett said that the Obama administration remained highly committed to a host of initiatives in areas ranging from education to tax policy in an effort to lower Black unemployment further.

“We need to make sure that our education system is working, that our children are finishing schools with the skills they need for the jobs of the future,” she said. “We need to make sure that we make our colleges affordable so that our young people aren’t burdened with student loans.”

“We need to open up job opportunities throughout the country and that we have programs that incentivize companies to go into communities that have been previously distressed,” she said. “And we need to look at the tax code and figure out what we can do to create those necessary incentives.”

Jarrett’s interview followed her speaking to a group of women entrepreneurs in a conference sponsored by the White House at Barnard College in New York. She said that providing assistance to women in business was an important goal of the Obama administration, saying that the growth in small businesses is critical to the nation’s economic expansion.

“We want to make sure that we’re fostering the kind of environment where small businesses can thrive and grow,” Jarrett said in the interview.

“They are the economic engine of our communities and it’s our job to make sure that we’re doing everything in the federal government’s control to make sure that we’re providing them access to capital, technical assistance, whatever we can to make sure that they create jobs,” she added. “Everything now is about getting our economy moving again.”

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(Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

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