Black Unemployment Has Topped 10 Percent For Most Of The Last 50 Years

Some semblance of recovery has blossomed in the American jobs market over the last three months, with more than 200,000 jobs created in each of December, January, and February and the unemployment rate falling to 8.3 percent. The private sector has added jobs for 24 consecutive months, and though the economy is still far from healthy, it has improved markedly from the bottom of the recession.

The vast majority of Americans benefiting from that recovery, however, are white. The black unemployment rate in February was 14.1 percent, and though that is an improvement from the 27-year high it reached in August, the official unemployment rate for blacks barely changed in 2011. The 9.6 percent unemployment rate America experienced during the worst of the recession, in fact, would be a drastic improvement over the black unemployment rate in most of the last 50 years, as Algernon Austin noted at the Economic Policy Institute:

Since 2008, the Black unemployment rate has exceeded 10 percent. My current projections are that the Black unemployment rate will continue to exceed 10 percent through 2015.

The sad fact is that for most of the past 50 years, the Black unemployment rate has been above 10 percent.


The extremely high unemployment rate blacks are currently experiencing is tied to another major drag on the recovery. While the private sector continues to add jobs, the public sector — where one in five blacks find employment — has shed more than 600,000 jobs at the state, local, and federal level, and those layoffs have continued despite the modest recovery.