Searching For An Answer Behind Black America’s High Unemployment Rate

Searching For An Answer Behind Black America's High Unemployment Rate
Black unemployment is the highest in the U.S.

AFRICANGLOBE – The so-called recovery of the US economy has not been equally kind to everyone. Even as the unemployment rate has remained steady at 6.3% last month, the unemployment rate for African Americans, coming in at 11.5%, is currently more than twice as high as that for White Americans.

Last month, the difference was even larger with African American unemployment rate reaching 2.2 times the unemployment rate of White Americans. According to Valerie Wilson of the Economic Policy Institute, this was the biggest discrepancy since 2007.

Her explanation for this? African Americans don’t give up.

Yes, African American employment has not recovered at the rate of White employment, but that’s not all. The other factor to consider, Wilson wrote last month, is that unemployed African Americans are more resilient and less likely to give up their job searches.

[R]elative to Whites, a higher share of jobless Blacks have continued to seek work – which means they have remained in the labor force and therefore been counted as unemployed. This is reflected in the fact that the percentage of

Blacks in the labor force (employed or actively seeking work) has fallen by less than the comparable figure for Whites (a 2.8 percentage-point decline versus a 3.3 percentage-point fall).Searching For An Answer Behind Black America's High Unemployment Rate

Photograph: Economic Policy institute

Since the Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates the unemployment rate based only on people who say they are are continuously looking for jobs, the rate for African Americans is twice as high.

Case in point: In May, the African American labor force was estimated at 18.7m with 2.15 million of African Americans searching for work. The labor force for White Americans was estimated at 123.3 million with just about 6.6 million of White Americans searching for work.

Those Who Gave Up

The official unemployment rate does not take into consideration “discouraged workers“. Technically outside the labor force, discouraged workers are those “who want and are available for work, and who have looked for a job sometime” in the prior year but not in the month prior to the most recent unemployment report. In the month of May, there were over seven million Americans who want a job but were not counted as part of the labor force. Out of those seven million:

  • 3.9 million of them have not searched for work in the past year
  • 3 million have searched for work at some point in the last year, but have given up in the last month
  • 2.1 million are available to work now
  • 697,000 of those who gave up in the past month, said they were discouraged over their job prospects

And while the long term unemployed like these discouraged workers have little effect on the labor market, their chances of finding a job are slim to none. In fact, just one in 10 is likely to find stable employment down the road, according to the Brookings Institute.


By: Jana Kasperkevic


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