Commentary: Women Responsible for All Black Job Gains in September

How can we turn the tides for African-American men?

Posted: 10/12/2012 12:39 PM EDT

There was great news on the Black unemployment front last month: While the overall national unemployment rate dipped to 7.8 percent in September, the Black unemployment rate also fell to 13.4 percent.

African-American unemployment had been above 14 percent for three months prior to September’s drop, and even higher before that. The decline may be a sign that the nation is recovering from its fiscal woes, and within that recovery is respite for some Black folks, too.

But while there is certainly reason to celebrate, there is some bad news: All of the job gains in the Black community were among Black women. Heather Boushey at the Root reports:

Among adults ages 20 and over, all of the gains for African-Americans were among women. Although the share of Black adult women overall employed rose from 55.1 percent to 55.3 percent, the share of Black adult men employed fell from 57.7 percent to 57.5 percent. Both adult men and women, however, have seen their employment rate rise over the past year 0.5 percentage points.

For months now, Black women have outpaced Black men when it comes to getting employed. Bloomberg Businessweek reported in May that Black women “knocked more than 3 percentage points off their unemployment rate, from 13.9 percent to 10.8 percent” in April. By contrast, Black men had only gone from 15.7 percent to 13.6 percent. And now, as stated above, Black male unemployment increased again.

To be fair, things have improved since last year at this time, when Black male unemployment was near an astounding 17 percent. Still, it’s clear from the persistent Black male lag that something needs to change.

That being the case, it’s nice to see cities like Philadelphia, which last year implemented a program aimed directly at helping Black men, at least acknowledging that Black men are deserving of and in need of assistance. Taking things one step further is billionaire philanthropist George Soros, who in early October released a report urging others to invest in Black male achievement. “It is my hope that this report will motivate other philanthropists and foundations to invest in efforts to improve achievement by African-American boys and men," Soros said, according to the Huffington Post. "This is a generational problem that demands a long-term commitment."

Soros is putting his money where his mouth is for Black boys and men. Now let’s hope others do the same.

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(Photo: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

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