The African-American unemployment rate for March was 13.3 percent, compared to 13.8 percent in February, according to figures released Friday morning by the Labor Department. The overall unemployment rate also dipped slightly to 7.6 percent from 7.7 percent. The economy, however, added just 88,000 jobs, the fewest in nine months.
In the week ending March 30, the number of new claims for unemployment benefits jumped to a four-month high of 385,000, the Bureau of Labor Statistic reported Thursday. In addition, the total number of people receiving benefits for the week ending March 16, the most recent statistics available, was 5,288,614, compared to 7,050,710 during the same week in 2012.
Reuters attributed the slower hiring pace to an evaporating demand in the construction sector. Economists surveyed by the newswire had predicted the economy added 200,000 new jobs in March, which interestingly fell short of the estimate of 158,000 provided by payroll provider Automatic Data Processing, which often is overly optimistic. Both were way off.
There also are concerns that the economy will continue to show more signs of weakness as the effect of automatic, across-the-board federal budget cuts known as sequestration starts to be felt.
Alan Krueger, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said that the "arbitrary and unnecessary cuts" means less investment in the nation's future competitiveness and warned that the sequester could eliminate 750,000 full-time jobs by the end of the year.
"The administration continues to urge Congress to replace the sequester with balanced deficit reduction, while working to put in place measures to put more Americans back to work like rebuilding our roads and bridges and promoting American manufacturing," he said.
The federal government workforce, in which African-Americans are over-represented, has already begun to receive notice that they will have to take several unpaid days off in the coming months.
“More than ever before, it has become critical for U.S. corporations to find and implement solutions that bring everyone to the table," said Bob Johnson, founder and chairman of the RLJ Companies and co-founder of BET. "It's what I call business solutions to social problems. Until we encourage companies to establish 'best practices' in hiring and procurement, we cannot ensure we are taking full advantage of the tremendous talent pool of minority individuals and businesses that are looking for new or growth opportunities.”
But according to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Democrats are full of excuses for why unemployment is still so high, and don't have enough solutions. He made no comment about the lower jobless rate and used the "disappointing" report to push the SKILLS Act, a job training bill recently passed in the House.
"This is the type of common sense idea that we all should be able to agree is necessary. If the president has a different approach to fixing these types of programs, as he has said, I encourage him to bring it to the table, and let's get to work," Cantor said.
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