BLS Report Especially Bleak for Black Families

September 07, 2011

There are plenty of depressing numbers to highlight from last Friday’s employment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And you can check out the latest Jobs Byte to get the details, but I’d like to draw attention to this number: 16.7 percent. This is the unemployment rate for blacks in August. Last August, that number was 16.3 and last month it was 15.9. Neither of these numbers are particularly uplifting, and that we have surpassed them both speaks to the utterly devastating situation in which black adults have found themselves.

ThinkProgress pointed out earlier this week that this is the highest level of black unemployment in 27 years. The current state of employment in the black community does more than remove much-needed income from families; it has lasting effects on the children within those families. A recent report from EPI highlights the numbers of children feeling these effects. In 2010, 15.8 percent of black children had at least one parent unemployed, up from 8.2 percent in 2007 and compared with 8.3 percent for whites in 2010. Those numbers become scarier when we look at the share of black children with a parent underemployed, which includes involuntary part-time workers and those who want, and are available for work but have not searched for a job in the past month. Nearly one-in-four (24.3%) in 2010 have at least one parent underemployed, up from 13.7 percent in 2007 and compared with 14.3 percent for whites in 2010. Moreover, these aren’t short spells of unemployment; the percent of long-term unemployed, those out of work for at least 27 weeks, was 48.4 percent last year.

A 2009 report by researchers at UC Davis showed that parental joblessness increases the probability of a child repeating a grade by about 15 percent. Given the link between academic achievement and parental unemployment, we are witnessing what could be a detrimental cycle for black families. High unemployment rates lead to a generation not reaching their educational, and thus job, potential, placing us firmly back at square one. If children are our future, I hope someone does something about jobs today.

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