Economic Perspectives with Hopeton Hay on KAZI 88.7 FM in Austin, TX

African American Unemployment in December 2008 Highest Since 1993

Posted by Hopeton on January 11, 2009

NOTE: For the latest post on African American unemployment click the following link: African American Recession Job Losses Surpasses 1 million, Obama Announces Training Initiative for Unemployed

By Hopeton Hay

African American males unemployment reached 13.4 percent in December of 2008, its highest level since March of 1993 according to data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Since the recession began in December 2007, unemployment for African American males has risen at a much faster rate than African American females, white males and white males.  It has risen 5.3 percentage points since December 2007. During the same time period unemployment has risen2.6percentage points for white males, 1.9 percentage points for African American females, and 1.6 percentage points for white females as exhibited in the chart below.

Overall African American unemployment in December 2008 was 11.9 percent, the highest since April 1994.  The number of African American unemployed increased by 117,000 from November 2008 to 2, 122,000 in December 2008.

Overall unemployment for the U.S. was at 7.2 percent in December 2008, the highest level seen since January 1993.

The one bright spot in the unemployment data is the health care industry according to a statement from Keith Hall, Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor and Statistics.  “The only major private industry sector that continued to add a significant number of jobs was health care.  Employment in this industry rose by 32,000 over the month and by 372,000 over the past 12 months,” said Hall.

unemployment-dec083

Educational Attainment Impacts Racial Disparities in Unemployment

One of the causes of the large disparity in unemployment rates for African Americans, especially males, may be the lower level of educational achievement.  An analysis of unemployment data from BLS reveal an inverse correlation between the level of educational achievement and the unemployment rate.  In 2007 for example, the average unemployment rate  was 3.0 percent for African Americans with a bachelors degree or higher, while it was 7.3 percent for African Americans with only a high school diploma, and no college.

Unfortunately, the percentage of African Americans 25 years or older with a bachelors degree or higher lagged far behind whites according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau 2007 American Community Survey.  Only 15.8 percent of African American males in 2007 had bachelor degrees  compared to 31.9 percent of white males.  Among females, 18.5 percent of African Americans had bachelors degrees and 29.2 percent of whites.

Because African Americans families have median income and wealth far below the average American, it is much more difficult to finance the cost of college. Thus public policies that increase the level of funding to subsidize the cost of college for low to moderate income families can play a critical role in reducing unemployment in the African American community.

Because African Americans families have median income and wealth far below the average American, it is much more difficult to finance the cost of college. Thus public policies that increase the level of funding to subsidize the cost of college for low to moderate income families can play a critical role in reducing unemployment in the African American community.


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