Commentary: Yes, Unemployment Is Down, But Not for All

At 8.6 percent, American unemployment is now at its lowest level in two-and-a half-years, but for African-Americans, the number has gone up, thanks in part to public-sector layoffs.

The nation is breathing a sigh of relief today with the release of promising jobs numbers on Friday. At 8.6 percent, American unemployment is now at its lowest level in two-and-a half-years, and that’s while the rest of the world struggles with a lot of their own financial woes. But while America in general is doing better going into the holiday season, some people living in the United States are doing worse, specifically African-Americans. And that could mean big problems for Black generations to come.
Though the country in general is pleased by the latest sign that things are turning around, Blacks are suffering some more bad news: For them, joblessness actually rose in November. The Black unemployment rate is now 15.5 percent, up from 15.1 percent in October.
“As more people come back into the labor market, there’s more competition and, generally speaking, Blacks are the last to be hired, which will keep their unemployment rate where it is and maybe even increase it a bit,” Georgia Tech economist Thomas Boston told
Another reason Blacks are facing a massive unemployment disparity is that so many of them work in the public sector, which is experiencing massive layoffs as federal agencies and local governments tighten their budgets.
“Though the precise number of African-Americans who have lost public-sector jobs nationally since 2009 is unclear, observers say the current situation in Chicago is typical,” the New York Times reports. “There, nearly two-thirds of 212 city employees facing layoffs are Black, according to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Union.
In short, while things are on an upswing overall, Blacks are continuing a descent into poverty. This is deflating news in and of itself, but it’s even worse considering what this means for future generations of African-Americans. With Blacks losing more and more jobs and falling into more and more debt, that means fewer and fewer educational and advancement opportunities for younger Blacks, whose parents aren’t able to amass wealth the way other Americans are. Even worse is watching public welfare programs erode thanks to cuts by federal and local governments.
No one says Blacks don’t have a chance, but this recession is ensuring that their chances are more and more limited all the time.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.


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