By Frederick H. Lowe
December’s jobs’ numbers shocked Wall Street, but what was even more shocking was the rise in unemployment among African Americans.
The nation’s nonfarm businesses added 312,000 jobs last month with employment growing in food services, health care, bars, construction, manufacturing and retail trade.
The nation’s overall unemployment rose 0.2 percent to 3.9 percent, reported the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics because more workers entered the labor force. The labor participation rate in December among whites slightly improved but remained the same among blacks.
African Americans did not benefit from December’s job growth, according to BLS. The unemployment rate in December for blacks was 6.6 percent compared with 6.0 percent in November on a seasonally adjusted basis.
BLS reported that the unemployment rate in December for black men 20 and older was 6.2 percent compared with 6.5 percent in November. For black women, December’s unemployment rate was 5.9 percent compared with November’s 5.0 percent.
The jobless rate for white men 20 and older also rose in December to 6.2 percent from 5.8 percent in November, BLS reported.
Jobless rates also rose for African Americans and Asians.
The Hispanic jobless rate declined and the unemployment rate among white women 20 and older was 3.2 percent in December, the same as November’s rate.
So how do we explain this? More jobs than expected are created but the jobless rate rises in the black community. One explanation is that companies refuse to hire blacks. Another reason is that more African Americans are looking for jobs because the economy is growing.
In November, the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, reported that African Americans had the highest unemployment rate nationally, followed by Hispanics, whites and Asian workers.
The District of Columbia had a black unemployment rate of 12.4 percent, the highest in the nation.