Black Unemployment Rate Still Hovers Above 10%

By | November 26, 2014 at 11:43 PM |

There has been much talk of the improving unemployment rate as of late. Yet while Caucasian men in America are unemployed at a rate of roughly 4.4 percent, for African-American men, the unemployment rate is well over double that rate.

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A staggering 11 percent of African-American men over the age of 20 are unemployed, suggesting that this demographic is stuck in a permanent recession. While the rate has come down close to 20 percent since the height of the Great Recession in 2009, it is still the highest unemployment rate of any ethnic or racial group.

Of course, the marked gap between Caucasian and African-American unemployment rates isn’t anything new. The African-American unemployment rate has typically been double the Caucasian rate since the government began collecting stats by race in 1994. Yet the fact that the rate is still over 10 percent in the aftermath of the Great Recession is worrisome.

Research consistently shows that it isn’t a lack of hard work or motivation that keeps African-Americans out of work. It is a lack of access to employment resources, lack of social networks and, oftentimes, outright discrimination. Though federal laws do ban discriminatory hiring practices and many companies boast Affirmative Action policies, research indicates that this simply isn’t enough.

Study after study shows that racial discrimination does affect African-Americans’ employment opportunities. For example, in a 2003 study, one black male and one white male with identical fictitious resumes were each sent to apply for jobs in Milwaukee. White applicants were twice as likely to receive a call back as black applicants. In addition, even white applicants with a criminal record were more likely to receive a call back than a black applicant with an identical resume without any criminal record.

And education doesn’t necessarily solve the problem. Nearly half of college graduates with a college degree are either unemployed or underemployed, according to a study released by the Center for Economic Policy Research.

Even African-Americans with STEM degrees (degrees in the fields of science, math, and technology), areas in which graduates typically enjoy the highest employment rates and most lucrative starting salaries, don’t achieve success on par with their Caucasian and Latino peers.

The unemployment rate of African-American graduates in STEM fields is 10 percent while the underemployment rate is over 32 percent. The bottom line is that more needs to be done to ensure even job growth across different demographics. Economic recovery needs to be inclusive, not exclusive.

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