Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Black Unemployment Rate, The REAL Numbers!

January 22, 2018 by  
Filed under Business, Money, News, Opinion, Politics, Weekly Columns

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( When the unemployment rate dropped and economic conditions improved under the leadership of President Barack Obama, 45 derided the gains as “fake news”. He suggested that the monthly Employment Situation ( reports of the Bureau of Labor Statistics were inaccurate and “made up”. These are the monthly reports that detail employment statistics, including unemployment rates. Now that 45 is in charge, he can’t crow often enough about the statistics that he described as “phony” just 18 months ago.

For the last week, we have heard 45 and his surrogates crowing that “the black unemployment rate is lower than it has ever been.” And, with a Black unemployment rate of 6.8 percent, they are right that the rate is at its lowest since the Bureau of Labor Statistics started disaggregating data to report unemployment by race. Is this something worth crowing about? Does 45 deserve to get credit for it? The answer to both questions, from my perspective, is a resounding “NO”.

First of all, the 6.8 percent unemployment rate African Americans experienced was exactly TWICE the white unemployment rate of 3.4 percent. Suppose that white men had an unemployment rate of 6.8 percent? Would 45 and his minions be celebrating if whites had the same employment situation as African Americans? I think not. So, celebrating the 6.8 percent rate without speaking of the inequality it is based on is like celebrating the inequality.

Secondly, the unemployment rate is an imperfect measure of the employment situation. The employment-population ratio is a far more accurate way of measuring how fully employed a population is. It measures the percentage of people who are employed. While 69 percent of white men are employed, just 63 percent of Black men are employed (the numbers for women are closer, with African American women actually working MORE than white women, with an employment-population ratio of 59 percent for Black women and 55 percent for white women). The employment-population ratio and labor force participation rates show racial disparities among men that are alarming. Differences in the employment-population ratio suggest that some African Americans have stopped looking for work because they don’t think they can find it. When the Black unemployment rate is adjusted to reflect these realities, it is closer to 10 percent than to the 6.8 percent 45 and his team are crowing out.

Furthermore, the 45th President inherited an economy that was improving. Falling unemployment rates are a result of the Obama expansion. Let’s say it again, the Obama expansion. An economic expansion will naturally move unemployment rates downward, no matter who is the President. While 45 can only legitimately claim stock market gains for the last two months, as his regressive tax bill has handsomely rewarded corporate interests, stock market gains in the first month of this year might also be considered a result of the Obama expansion.

Will 45 take credit for the stagnant wages that plague all workers, but especially African American workers? While unemployment rates have dropped, wages have not risen by very much (less than 2 percent last year). Sure, some workers got tax bill-related bonuses, and Walmart will raise their wages for some workers to $11 an hour. Most workers are stuck making the same amount of money they made three years ago.

Does 45 take credit for income and wealth differences between African Americans and whites? The average white family has a $65,000 income, compared to just $39,000 for African Americans. And the average African American household has just $17,000 in wealth, compared to $171,000 for whites.

When 45 crows about a 6.8 percent unemployment rate for African Americans, he normalizes the fact that African Americans should have a higher unemployment rate than whites. And when he talks unemployment out of context and ignores income and wealth disparities, he is suggesting that the current conditions of African Americans are something to celebrate. If this President were really interested in the economic status of African Americans he would have produced a different tax bill, ceased his attacks on health care, and directed his secretary of education to stop attacking public education and HBCUs. But 45 isn’t interested in the economic status of African Americans. He is interested in bragging about data he once dismissed as “phony”.

Written By Julianne Malveaux

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One Response to “Black Unemployment Rate, The REAL Numbers!”
  1. James Davis says:

    Let’s All Agree that the Unemployment Rates Have been Politicized!

    However, the unemployment rates as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) were not politicized by Mr. Trump but by the Bill Clinton administration in 1994. The statistics are now being used by Mr. Trump, as they were used by Presidents Bush, Obama and now you in the same manner.

    We should go back to the system used prior to the Clinton administration which gives us a much more accurate picture of African American unemployment. What is needed to help the African American community and indeed the Nation, is what people like yourself (who represent the black intelligentsia), and Democratic party leaders avoid discussing is, what Chuck Schumer said, after the defeat of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the presidential election; “Democrats need a strong, bold, sharp-edged, and common-sense economic agenda.”

    The Democratic party is attempting to put together a coalition of groups based on numbers and not an economic plan on which they can govern as Mr. Schumer suggested. Its what I call an ethnic-issue and anti-Trump campaign. The coalition, that the leadership of the Democratic party is knitting together are Hispanics, based on DACA (Deferred Action for Child Arrivals), suburban whites based on Mr. Trump’s disparaging behavior toward women, and blacks based on Mr. Trump’s past remarks about African Americans(AA) and his recent and hateful remarks regarding Africa and the Caribbean. However, for blacks, getting rid of one white man’s hateful remarks through the voter’s booth, even if he is the president of the United States is not a policy on which Black America can advance itself economically.

    This approach to the 2018 elections is also not a plan on which Democrats can govern. As a result, your pointing out issues with the BLS unemployment rates is informative, it nonetheless ignores what should be the Democratic party and the AA community’s primary objective and that is, “a strong, bold, sharp-edged, and common-sense economic agenda.”

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