Almost 4 million blacks out of work on Labor Day

WASHINGTON — More than 1.2 million African-Americans left the labor force from August 2008 to August 2009, reports based on the latest employment situation announcement by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That meant the employment to population ratio among African-Americans fell from 57.8 percent to 52.8 in a year’s time.  The number counted as employed dropped from 16,132,000 to 14,929,000.

The decline of 1.2 million is important because these individuals are not included in the unemployment rate, which is the most widely reported measure from the monthly survey.

Unemployment rates are alarming in their own right, but apparently dramatically understate the impact of the recession on the most severely affected sector of the labor force.

There are 730,000 additional black unemployed nationally to create a jump from 10.7 percent in August 2008 to 15.1 percent in August 2009. BLS reports that  1,925,000 blacks were unemployed in August 2008; while 2,655,000 were unemployed in August 2009.

A quirk in the way unemployment rates are calculated tends to under-represent those out of work the longest.  The traditional unemployment rate only includes those who are actively looking for work in the past month.  Those who   haven’t attempted to seek a job during that period are excluded from the calculation.  These “discouraged” workers often do not qualify for benefits such as unemployment insurance or training.

The figures show that the rise in umemployment only accounts for just over half of the decline in the  ranks of black employed.  Combining the figures means that almost 4 million African-Americans are out of work, a rate closer to 25 percent from last year’s employment baseline.

Such gloomy statistics are a further indication that the most effective step to reduce unemployment among those actively seeking work and a return to the workforce for those who have  become discouraged is the growth in black entrepreneurship promoted through National Black Business Month. executive editor John William Templeton will sum up the sixth annual National Black Business Month in August and refer to the example of black business legends like Abraham Lincoln Lewis in a keynote address to the Northeast Florida Economic Opportunity Summit on Wednesday, Sept. 9, at 3 p.m. in Jacksonville, FL.


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