There is a growing crisis of joblessness for African-American men. Across the country, far too many black men – especially in urban areas – face difficulty finding and keeping work. The numbers are staggering and getting worse. As far back as 1980, a 20-year old black man was almost twice as likely to be unemployed than a white male of the same age. Even during the economic boom of the 1990s, the annual labor force participation rate of African American males over 20 dropped from 75 percent in 1990 to 72 percent in 1999, and it remained between three and four percentage points below that of white males with few exceptions. The recent downturn in manufacturing jobs will exacerbate African-American male unemployment numbers because they make up a large share of those jobs.
The JEC will examine federal policy solutions, such as job training and social insurance reform, that will help us meet the challenges of this serious problem. The landmark JEC hearing will mark the first significant effort by the committee to address the economic status of African Americans since 1990 and it comes on the eve of the release of new employment figures by the federal government. As of January 2007, the unemployment rate for African American men age 20 and older is 7.5%.