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African-American Unemployment Rate Was ‘Virtually Unchanged’ In 2011

Tanya SomanaderAs 2011 progressed, Americans overall saw a slowly decreasing unemployment rate, ticking down from 9.1 percent in January to 8.5 percent in December. However, a new report from UC Berkeley reveals that the unemployment rate for African Americans stayed almost exactly the same. In January of 2011, the unemployment rate for African Americans stood at 15.7 percent. In December, it stood at 15.8 percent.

Even as the underlying factors affecting the overall unemployment rate (employment level, unemployment level, and number of people not in the labor force) changed, African-Americans saw “virtually no movement” in their official rate. The report compares the unemployment rate change by race:

Many factors are contributing to the stubbornly high unemployment rate of African-Americans. Since the recession began, at least 600,000 public sector jobs have been sacrificed for budget cuts. These layoffs fall heaviest on African-Americans, as “about one in five black workers have public sector jobs, and African-American workers are one-third more likely than white ones to be employed in the public sector.” Economists also note that the younger age of the African-American workforce, the lower number of college graduates, and the larger number living in low-income areas that were harder hit by the recession are all keeping the rate as high as it is.

Whatever the reasons, the trend is certainly disturbing. As the report notes, “Black male unemployment rates have fallen slightly and Black female unemployment rates have risen. In contrast, unemployment rates for white men and white women have fallen over the same time period.”

This blog originally appeared in ThinkProgress on January 19, 2012. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Tanya Somanader is a reporter/blogger for ThinkProgress.org at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Tanya grew up in Pepper Pike, Ohio and holds a B.A. in international relations and history from Brown University. Prior to joining ThinkProgress, Tanya was a staff member in the Office of Senator Sherrod Brown, working on issues ranging from foreign policy and defense to civil rights and social policy.


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