A better way of looking at the high rate of African-American unemployment is to look at the actual numbers of unemployed, particularly in comparison to the number of unemployed among whites.
It’s well known that the 9.7 percent rate released this morning by the Bureau of Labor Statistics is twice the 5.1 percent rate among whites.
That percentage equates to 1.724 million African-Americans officially unemployed, which means they were seeking jobs in the last few weeks. There are another 10.088 million who are not in the labor force, out of a total black labor force of 27.854 million.
Among whites, who are six times more numerous than African-Americans in the labor force with more than 189 million, the number of unemployed is 6.428 million, only four times larger than the number of African-Americans. One can see why they are less anxious about the economy because the unemployment rate for white men over 20 is 4.7 percent and for white women over 20 is 4.1 percent.
In Trouble in the Air: State of Black Business 2008, we suggest that the root of that disparity is the relative difference in self-employment among African-Americans. Looking state by state, whites are twice as likely to own a business compared to African-Americans, three times more likely in a number of states.
Accordingly, the best policy solution to reduce unemployment, which correlates with negative statistics ranging from higher incarceration to lower health insurance coverage, is to increase the number of African-Americans owning their own businesses. A good place to start is a renewed push to get black businesses involved in the recovery from Hurricane Katrina, which has been a dismal failure to this point.
A second policy initiative is for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to be proactive in processing claims of 50,000 black farmers left out of the original Pigford v. Glickman settlement.
The third strategy is to increase government deposits by local, state and federal agencies in African-American banks, which increases their ability to make loans to new firms and to provide affordable mortgages.
But these steps require cooperation from a government which has been maliciously neglectful of African-American businesses, to the point of not even conducting the every-five-years Census on time.
During August, National Black Business Month, each individual American and any willing tourists from abroad can make their own difference by adopting the 31 Ways in 31 Days strategy. Visit at least one black business each day during the month. Invest or buy or make a donation.
Will it make a difference? There are an additional 600,000 African-Americans unemployed, based on the ratios for the rest of the population. If each of the 1.2 million African-American businesses could hire one additional worker, that disparity could be eliminated.
People requiring services can be converted to people who pay taxes and contribute to their communities.
If you’re looking for something complex, I’m sorry. It’s just that simple. Visit the National Black Business Month web site for suggestions on how to find various types of black businesses each day of the month.