Washington Report: Black Unemployment Rate Increased in March While Overall Rate Declined

Politicians weigh in on what's needed to lift employment in our communities

For many African Americans, the job hunt continues (Image: Thinkstock)

The March jobs report brought bad news for African-Americans whose unemployment rate increased from 15.3% to 15.5%, while the overall national rate declined from 8.9% to 8.8%. The U.S. economy also added 216,000 jobs, which primarily generated by factories, retailers, the education and healthcare sectors and professional and financial services.

“It’s encouraging to learn that the national unemployment rate is moving in the right direction, and we must take steps to ensure that this trend continues. But the recovery is not reaching every community,” said Rep. Barbara Lee (D-California). “It’s been 3 months since Republicans took control of the House and they have yet to create a single job. We should be focused on direct job creation for our nation’s most vulnerable communities, fostering new economic opportunities in underserved communities and providing pathways out of poverty.”

She’s not the only House member to question the House Republicans’ commitment to job creation. Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn of South Carolina reiterated on Friday the views of some economists that the Republicans’ budget-cutting plans would eliminate 700,000 jobs. He also accused the party of having misguided focus. Instead of trying to repeal healthcare reform or eliminating programs such as Planned Parenthood, he said, Congress should be focused on “creating jobs and strengthening the economy.”

But like Lee, other black lawmakers are calling for more targeted approaches to addressing the African-American unemployment rate. If studies found that a particular community was disproportionately suffering from cancer, Congressional Black Caucus chairman Emmanuel Cleaver (D-Missouri) noted, the government would seek answers.

Black Republican Rep. Allen West (D-Florida) suspects that the jobs figures may even be inflated and creating a falsely positive spin. He said that the true national unemployment rate may be closer to 10%, “and when you start to look at different communities, especially African-American communities it’s even worse.”

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