WASHINGTON– The black unemployment rate rose to 13.7 percent in June, up from 13.5 percent in May as the economy added 195,000 jobs, exceeding most expectations. The unemployment rate for whites barely improved to 6.6 percent in June from 6.7 percent in May.
After falling for four straight months, the unemployment rate for black women 20 years and over rose sharply to 12 percent in June from 11.2 percent in May. The jobless rate for white women also increased to 6 percent in June from 5.8 percent in May.
The jobless rate for black men over 20 years of age fell to 13 percent in June from 13.5 percent in May. The unemployment rate for white men fell to 6.2 percent in June from 6.4 percent mark set in May.
The unemployment rate for black teens (16 to 19 years old) rose to 43.6 percent in June and the unemployment rate for white teens dipped to 20.4 percent.
The Federal government shed 5,000 jobs in June, continuing a 12-month trend that disproportionately affects blacks because the rate of employment for blacks in the public sector tends to be higher than in the private sector.
Researchers at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), a non-partisan think tank focused on the economic policy needs of low- and middle-income workers, say that although job creation beat most expectations in June, the job growth is not nearly enough to have a significant impact on the national unemployment rate.
Heidi Shierholz, an economist for the EPI, wrote in a recent post on EPI's website that even if the economy had grown by 340,000 jobs per month, it would still take 2.5 years to close the gap in the labor market.
"Getting the kind of job growth we need would take a radical shift from policy makers," wrote Shierholz. "Absent that shift, we can expect to see elevated unemployment for years to come – which represents an ongoing disaster for the U.S. workforce."
More than 2.5 million blacks are unemployed, according to the Labor Department's latest jobs report, and the Obama administration's lack of focus on the black unemployment rate has drawn the criticism of black leaders. The 13.7 black unemployment rate is higher now than when President Obama took the oath of office in January 2009.
"Despite the high level of African American unemployment there hasn't been any targeting," said Julianne Malveaux, an economist and former president of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C.
"When you look at populations that have been disproportionately affected, you're looking at African Americans, you're looking at African-American men, you're looking at inner-city inhabitants. Those are the people that deserve targeting."
Some economists say that there are steps President Obama can take to mitigate racial disparities in hiring and employment that don't involve getting into another protracted fight with members of Congress who seem determined to block any jobs program that comes out of the White House.
"One thing the president can do is accelerate, deepen, and strengthen the enforcement of anti-discrimination policies," said Bernard Anderson, an economist and professor emeritus Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. "That's one thing the president can do and from all evidence, the Obama administration has been asleep at the switch."