In May of 2017, the Black unemployment rate hit its lowest level in 17 years: 7.5 percent. Then, in June, the jobless rate for Blacks fell to 7.1 percent, before rising to 7.4 percent in July, according to the latest jobs report.
The jobs numbers over the last six months have generally been impressive. It’s fascinating to note that, suddenly, all the accusations that low jobs numbers were “fake” when President Barack Obama was in office have suddenly vanished.
The Black unemployment rate hit 16.7 percent in September 2011—the highest Black unemployment since Ronald Reagan was in office pushing “trickle down” economics. Overall, the Black unemployment numbers were higher, on average, under President Obama than President George W. Bush or President Bill Clinton.
The 30 year-high for Black joblessness in late 2011 prompted members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) to embark on an August 2011 jobs tour. That same year, President Obama barked at members of the CBC at their annual gala to “put on your marching shoes…and stop whining and complaining.”
The Black unemployment rate, in general, was lower under President George W. Bush than it was under President Obama. Economists agree that the high jobless numbers, under President Obama, were largely driven by the economic downturn known as the Great Recession. Now, Obama’s economic policies are continuing to bear fruit during Trump’s first six months as the Black jobless numbers improve.
Black unemployment still remains double than it is for Whites. July’s numbers showed Black unemployment at 7.4 percent, Hispanics at 5.1 percent and Whites at 3.8.
In 2013, AFL-CIO Chief economist Bill Spriggs wrote: “A big puzzle in looking at the changes in the Black unemployment rate is the fact the Black labor force is older now than during past major downturns in the mid-1970s and early 1980s. In 1975, the Black unemployment rate spiked to 15.4 percent. In 1982 and 1983, the Black unemployment rate skyrocketed to above 20 percent for a nine-month period starting in October 1982.”
Several political observers pointed out that many jobs being added to the U.S. economy are in the service sector, such as restaurants and healthcare.
“Ensuring workers have better jobs and better wages also means they should be trained with the tools they need to succeed in our economy,” said Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) the top Democrat on the Education & Workforce Committee in the House, in a statement on August 4.
The economy added 209,000 jobs in July.
Though the reasons for rising and falling Black unemployment over the last six months are not clear, it is clear that the current numbers reflect Obama’s economic policies; President Donald Trump has yet to implement any economic strategy and his proposed budget won’t take effect until next year, at the earliest. Additionally, Congress has passed nothing related to the economy regarding taxes or jobs.
Feature photo: Photo taken during the Loretta Lynch swearing-in ceremony at Warner Theatre in Washington, D.C. (Freddie Allen/AMG/NNPA)
Lauren Victoria Burke, Contributor
Lauren Victoria Burke is an independent journalist who analyses politics and justice reform. She created Crewof42.com, a blog that covers the work of African American members of Congress, in 2009. Ms. Burke has also been a staffer for the Senate Democratic Policy Committee and Director of Communications for Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN). She has had a very diverse career in politics and media and appears weekly on NewsOneNow with Roland Martin. She has also appeared on Hardball with Chris Matthews, Politics Nation with Al Sharpton and Up with Steve Kornacki on MSNBC. She is also a contributing writer for NBCNews.com and TheRoot.com
Ms. Burke has also authored three books of photography including two on President Obama’s 2008 campaign for the presidency and one with Marvel Comics creator Stan Lee.
Ms. Burke was born in the Bronx, New York and grew up on Long Island. She holds a B.A. in History from The American University.