President Obama exhaled yesterday as the national unemployment rate fell to a two-year low of 8.8 percent. However, the jobless rate for African Americans continues to rise and is nearly double the national average.
Unemployment actually rose slightly for African Americans, hitting 15.5 percent. After a drop last month, black teen joblessness rose again to 42.1 percent, reports the Associated Press. These numbers also don’t reflect the number of blacks who have left the job market altogether.
This is why the National Urban League, who painted a bleak picture of the “State of Black America” during a town hall meeting at Howard University this week, says the government needs to “declare war” on black unemployment.
“We need a focused strategy on those communities where unemployment is higher, where poverty is higher. The bigger the headache, the bigger the pill. That means, the higher the unemployment rate, the bigger dose of medicine needed to get beyond unemployment and get back to economic growth,” said NUL President Marc Morial.
The U.S. Department of Labor reported yesterday that the economy added 216,000 new jobs last month, offsetting layoffs by local governments. Factories, retailers, education, health care and an array of professional and financial services expanded payrolls.
Private employers, the backbone of the economy, drove nearly all of the gains. They added 230,000 jobs last month, in addition to 240,000 in February. It was the first time private-sector hiring topped 200,000 in back-to-back months since 2006 — more than a year before the recession started.
The unemployment rate dipped from 8.9 percent in February to 8.8 percent in March. The rate has fallen a full percentage point over the last four months, the sharpest drop since 1983.
But blacks, who are, as Morial characterizes it, the “caboose” of the economy, need special attention during these precarious economic times. The Urban League report makes several recommendations to Congress, including providing funding for a summer youth jobs program and creating 100 urban job training schools to prepare young African Americans for careers in areas such as technology and healthcare. –terry shropshire