The Labor Department has released a report titled “The Black Labor Force in Recovery” that examines the state of Black employment in 2010 and acknowledges that more must be done to address the extraordinarily high unemployment rates plaguing most African-American communities.
In 2010, African-Americans made up 12 percent of the United States labor force. Historically, their unemployment rates have been higher than that of other groups, and that trend has continued throughout the recession, which began in 2007. In 2010, 48.4 percent of unemployed Blacks were unemployed for 27 weeks or longer, compared to 41.9 percent of whites and 39.3 percent of Latinos, the report says. In addition, since a peak high rate of 16.5 percent in March and April of 2010, the May 2011 Black unemployment rate has declined by only 0.3 percent.
Bureau of Labor Statistics economist Betsey Stevenson said the report was produced in part to have in one place a summary set of facts about Black employment and steps being taken to improve their prospects. The report also looks at industries where African-Americans are underrepresented, such as the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) occupations. They account for only seven percent or less of jobs in those fields.
“One of the things we know is that when you work in [STEM] fields or have a degree in science, technology, engineering or math, you earn a lot more than somebody who’s just like you but in a non-STEM field,” Stevenson said. “One of the president’s initiatives has been not just to increase educational attainment but pushing [minorities and women] more into these fields.”
In addition, she said, while the unemployment rates for teens and young adults have been “breathtakingly high,” there has been a silver lining. The percentage of 16-19-year-olds enrolled in school increased from 80.7 percent in 2007 to 81.5 percent in October 2010. The increase is even higher for African-Americans aged 20-24, from 32.8 percent in 2007 38.7 percent in October 2010.
The report highlights some of the steps that President Obama’s administration has taken to close some of the education and employment gaps to make people aware of funded initiatives and opportunities that they can take advantage of, Stevenson said. The 16.2 percent Black unemployment rate is unacceptably high, she added, and the administration is very focused on trying to bring it down.
(Photo: Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)