African Americans Suffering from Higher Unemployment

Our nation’s economy is now two years into a shaky recovery following the Great Recession of 2007–2009, yet for the millions of Americans still out of work, the recovery is largely meaningless. All Americans saw significant job losses during the Great Recession and comparatively high unemployment rates persist for all population groups—none more so than African Americans.

The unemployment rates for African Americans by gender, education, and age are much higher today than those of whites, and these unemployment rates for African Americans rose much faster than those for comparable groups of whites during and after the Great Recession. The unemployment rates for many black groups in fact continued to rise during the economic recovery while they started to drop for whites. The first few months of 2011 saw substantial employment gains for African Americans but job growth stalled yet again in the past few months.

It is now painfully clear that African Americans are still facing depression-like unemployment levels. Policymakers should obviously address the overarching problem of unemployment in whatever plan comes together to raise the federal debt limit by August 2, but there are unique structural obstacles that prevent African Americans from fully benefiting from economic and labor market growth—obstacles that deserve particular attention when unemployment rates for African Americans stand at the highest levels since 1984.

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