Joyce Jones - The Labor Department has released the August jobs report and the unemployment figured was unchanged from July's 9.1 percent. In addition, the economy added only 17,000 new jobs. The African-American jobless rate climbed from 15.9 to 16.7, which only strengthens the argument of Black lawmakers that there is a critical need to specifically address this problem.
The unemployment rate for Black males rose a whole percentage point to 18.0 percent and the rate for Black youths aged 16–19 jumped from 39.2 to 46.5 percent.
According to William Darity, an economist at Duke University, the Black unemployment rate may be in part attributed to more people feeling less discouraged about finding employment and reentering the workforce to jumpstart their job searches, Still, he says, it is also a sign of the discrimination that continues to exist in the labor market.
Georgia Tech Thomas Boston agrees that's a part of the problem, particularly given the fact that Blacks comprise just 12 percent of the labor market but 22 percent of the unemployed. He also said that the unemployment burden is shifting from whites to African-Americans whose job losses are almost equal to white job gains.
"Part of it also is where Blacks are situated in the market. They have the kinds of jobs that are the first to be affected when the economy sneezes," Boston explains. "We also have an economy that isn't creating jobs for people with low levels of education and Blacks are heavily concentrated in that group. All of this points to an historical pattern of discrimination, which puts Blacks in a situation where they're the first to experience downturns in the economy."
According to the Associated Press, although employers added 117,000 jobs in July, and the unemployment rate continues to hover at 9.1 percent, there have been signs of increased consumer confidence. Americans continued to spend during the critical back-to-school season despite higher prices and Hurricane Irene’s roar up the East Coast, the manufacturing sector expanded for the 25th consecutive month and the auto industry experienced a notable boost. In addition, large and small retailers are reporting sales gains. Analysts are predicting that the economy will grow by approximately two percent in the current quarter, which is slow but better than the first half of the year, the AP reports.
In addition, the Labor Department reported on Wednesday that unemployment rates dropped in a majority of American cities in July despite a weak increase in jobs. But the economy needs twice the number of 117,000 net jobs added in that month to make a real dent in the overall unemployment rate.
The August report underscores the importance of the jobs plan that President Obama is scheduled to unveil before a joint session of Congress on Sept. 8, in which he is expected to unveil a grand plan to boost job creation and the economy, while at the same time reducing the nation’s ballooning deficit and debt. It will undoubtedly be a difficult balancing act, but he won’t be alone.
Republican presidential candidates will also be on the spot during their Sept. 7 debate, when they too will be expected to provide solutions to the nation’s troubling and persistent unemployment rate that is affecting a broad swath of the American public. They will be challenged to provide fair, balanced and workable solutions that will get millions of struggling Americans back to work.