President Obama Resists Calls for Special Programs for Black Jobless
Jobs Are Coming Back—But Are They Black?
By Dayo Olopade
From left, NACCP chief executive Benjamin Todd Jealous, Rev. Al Sharpton of the National Action Network and National Urban League president Marc Morial, speak to members of the media outside the West Wing of the White House following their meeting with President Barack Obama in Washington, Wednesday. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais).
The employment statistics for January are out—and the jobless rate for America now sits at 9.7 percent. While the country lost 20,000 jobs last month, this figure is a slight improvement over December’s rate of 10 percent, and a five month low. The United States gross domestic product grew by a healthy 5.7 percent in the last quarter of 2009, and in some sectors—manufacturing, part-time health work, and the automobile industry, for example—there are signs that recovery is happening. In addition, the number of involuntary part-time workers (who had been working fewer hours because of job scarcity) dropped by roughly 850,000, suggesting that employers are converting part-time employees back to full-time jobs.
The unemployment rate is still differentiated by gender and race: Joblessness among women decreased to 8.4 percent, while for men it dropped by a smaller amount, to 10.8 percent.
But the news for black America is not so encouraging: While the overall rate of unemployment dropped slightly, the unemployment rate for African-Americans rose to 16.5 percent, and for black men rose a full percentage point to 17.6 percent—a high for the ongoing recession.
Christina Romer, chair of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers, doesn’t have a clear reason for why this is happening to black America. “In terms of what in particular is driving that, we don’t yet have the answers on that,” she said, while briefing reporters on the new numbers. “There is of course…what economists would call ‘noise,’” she continued, suggesting that month-to-month movement in the jobless rate does not yet constitute a pattern.