Understanding the Economy: Long-Term Unemployment in the African American Community
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Joint Economic Committee
[Excerpt] This report provides an in-‐depth look at unemployment, including long-‐term unemployment, among African American or black workers. Since 1972, when the Bureau of Labor Statistics started tracking unemployment rates by race, it has become clear that the overall unemployment rate for the United States has masked the depth of the unemployment problem within the African American community. This report is the first in a series of Joint Economic Committee reports examining the unemployment situation among different demographic groups. It shows that while African American workers have historically faced rates of unemployment and long-‐term unemployment higher than the overall rate, the unemployment problems in the African American community were exacerbated during the Great Recession. Additionally, a larger percentage of African Americans are currently "marginally attached" or have dropped out of the work force, relative to the population as a whole. Understanding the employment challenges facing the African American community is just one important part of the process of devising effective policies to reduce unemployment for workers in all demographic groups. Longer durations of unemployment and higher unemployment rates could be symptomatic of a mismatch between skills and available jobs and may require more targeted policy actions to correct. Unemployment among teenagers is especially troubling, as economists have found that spells of unemployment among youth may lead to lower future wages and poorer career trajectories. Thus, in addition to reducing the unemployment rate, policymakers must also consider ways of limiting the long-‐term impact of the recession on workers who have been unemployed for extended periods of time to make sure that these workers can move into employment.
Unemployment; African Americans; race; development; economic growth; labor market