Dr. Boyce: Black Unemployment Drops, But There Isn’t Much to Celebrate

4 Nov

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Your Black World

This month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released unemployment data for the month of October.  The numbers are an improvement for African Americans, but only about as much as going from extreme misery to less extreme misery.  Not to sound like a pessimist, but there is no point where any American should be asked to celebrate double-digit unemployment.

Overall black unemployment dropped from 16 percent to 15.1 percent.  We’re no longer double the level of white unemployment, just nearly double.   Black teen unemployment dropped from 44.2 percent to 37.8 percent, and black women saw a decline from 13.2 percent to 12.6 percent.  Finally, black men, who have the worst unemployment problem for all gender/race categories, saw their unemployment rate decline from 16.8 percent to 16.2.

Whites, overall, saw their unemployment rate remain steady at eight percent.  White male unemployment rose slightly from 7.7 percent to 7.9 percent, and white women watched their rate drop from 7.1 to 7 percent.  White teens were the only group to experience an increase in unemployment, going from 21.3 percent to 21.8 percent.

There isn’t much to say about these numbers except that any improvement is likely going to win points for the Obama Administration.  However, there remains a difference between improving the overall unemployment rate and closing the unemployment gap.  Improving economic growth overall certainly reduces the rate of joblessness, but the black community should support politicians with an agenda that acknowledges racial inequality and seeks to correct it.

On the political left, we’ve heard that the “rising tide will lift all boats,” incorrectly arguing that improving the economy has a defacto impact on economic inequality.  On the right, we’ve heard stories about “equal opportunity for everyone,” an argument which fails to address structural inequality and workplace discrimination.  So, on both sides of the political fence, black issues are thrown to the wayside, as we’ve all become accustomed to living in a world where black people are twice as likely to be unemployed and have wealth levels that are only a fraction of whites.

The bottom line is that this is NOT the way things are supposed to be.  We have got to expect something better.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and an Ambassador of Action for the “Less Talk, More Action” Economic Empowerment Tour.   To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here. 

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