Black unemployment in US keeps dreams unfulfilled

Black unemployment in US keeps dreams unfulfilled

WASHINGTON - Agence France-Presse
Black unemployment in US keeps dreams unfulfilled

While white Americans’ joblessness rate was 6.6 percent last month, the rate was nearly double for blacks. AFP photo

Fifty years after the “dream” of racial equality invoked by Martin Luther King at the March on Washington, the reality is that African-Americans still suffer the most unemployment.

Government statistics show the overall U.S. unemployment rate stood at 7.4 percent in July.

But while whites had a jobless rate of 6.6 percent last month, the rate was nearly double for blacks at 12.6 percent.

By comparison, the Hispanic, or Latino, minority fared better, with 9.1 percent unemployed. Asian-Americans were the least affected by the woes in the U.S. labor market after the Great Recession; only 5.7 percent lacked jobs.

“Discriminations against African-Americans are still very pervasive, it’s a major force of the economy,” Heather McGhee, vice president of Demos, a Washington-based think tank on equal rights, told AFP.

Progress, but not enough

The yawning gap between majority whites and blacks is nothing new and has persisted through periods of economic expansion and recession.

Since 1972 the jobless rate for blacks has held at roughly double that of the entire workforce.

Even at the end of 2000, amid full employment in the U.S., when the jobless rate was 3.9 percent, 7.3 percent of African-American workers were unemployed. 

The statistics hide the fact that gains have been made since King’s landmark call for equal rights and opportunities in 1963.

“There’s been a lot of progress,” McGhee said. “We have to make sure to not act as if the story of black America is a tragic one.” Nearly 50 years after segregation was ruled illegal in 1964, President Barack Obama is the first black president and blacks’ access to education has improved enormously, she noted.

According to experts, the negative stereotypes about blacks remain in the undercurrents of U.S. society, but in different forms than in the past. U.S. companies employing more than 100 workers have to publish an annual report on the ethnicity and gender of their workforces.