Study Seeks to Explain Disproportionately High Unemployment Numbers in Black Communities

U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla, hosts a town hall meeting in Miami, Monday, Aug. 22, 2011. The Congressional Black Caucus organized the meeting to address black unemployment rates, one of five taking place in August in distressed communities across the country. At issue is the stubbornly high unemployment rate in the black community, now at 16.8 percent nationwide, more than double that for whites. (J Pat Carter/AP Photo)

According to Business Insider, the unemployment rate for black Americans spiked to a shocking 16.7 percent in August, up from 15.9 percent the previous month.

This makes it the highest it has been in 25 years, up from the previous record of 16.5 percent in March and April 2010.

The report continues: “the unemployment rate for black males rose a whole percentage point to 18 [percent]. Even more staggeringly, the black youth unemployment rate in August was 46.5 [percent], up from 39.2 [percent] in July.”

Last month’s soaring black unemployment rate gives life to the claim that African Americans have been disproportionately affected by the shrinking public-sector.

Why is that?

Well, according to a study by the U.C. Berkeley Department of Labor, “the public sector is the most important source of employment for African Americans and a key source of high-paying jobs, especially for black women.”

The Berkeley report also states that African Americans are 30 percent more likely to hold government jobs than any other group; from 2008-2010, 21.2 percent of black workers were employed in the public sector, compared to just 16.3 percent of non-black workers.

Therefore, Business Insider believes that the recent decrease in public sector jobs explains why African Americans have been hit so much harder by government budget cuts and layoffs than their non-white counterparts. This might also explain why black unemployment rate was double the 8 percent unemployment rate for whites.

According to the same article, the white unemployment rate has actually fallen, down from 8.7 percent last year, while the black unemployment rate has risen from 16 percent.

The public sector continues to eliminate jobs, including 17,000 in August alone, bringing the number to over 600,000 since 2008.

Business Insider concludes: “The ongoing contraction of state and local governments suggests that the black unemployment trends are not likely to reverse any time soon. The prospect is perhaps most alarming for black youth, 46.5 percent of whom are now unemployed.”

If it is indeed the case that the number of local and federal jobs will continue to diminish, a trend many would like to see maintained, then perhaps it is time for the man who promised “good jobs to the jobless” to think about promoting expansion and hiring in the private sector.