Black Unemployment Drives ‘Perpetual, Slow-Moving Recession’

Source: Arthur Delaney / The Huffington Post

Blacks bear a disproportionate share of the unemployment burden. The national jobless rate is 7.6 percent; for African Americans, it’s 13.7 percent. Since 1979, the unemployment rate for blacks has tracked the same ups and downs as the overall rate, but it’s usually been at least twice as high. At the same time, it gets half the attention.

In the fall of 2009, the U.S. unemployment rate topped 10 percent for the first time in a quarter century, causing policymakers and analysts to lament the catastrophe that had befallen the American public. Yet throughout that entire prior period the average rate of African American unemployment had been 12.2 percent, according to the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal think tank. And while the gap between poverty for blacks and whites has narrowed over decades, at 27.6 percent the black poverty rate is nearly double the overall rate of 15 percent.

In other words, as EPI scholars wrote in a 2012 book on working America, “African Americans have essentially been living through a perpetual, slow-moving recession.”

Pritchett earns slightly more than the median wage for black women, which was $13.13 in 2011, according to EPI. Black men, meanwhile, earned a median wage of $14.26. White women earned a median wage of $15.89, while white men topped the list with a median wage of $19.76.

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