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Understanding the Economy: Long-Term Unemployment in the African American Community

Mar 17 2010

Joint Economic Committee Releases New Report on
Long-Term Unemployment in the African American Community

Washington, D.C. – A new report released today by the Joint Economic Committee (JEC) provides an in-depth look at unemployment and long-term unemployment among African Americans and shows that both the unemployment rate and the duration of unemployment increased dramatically during the Great Recession for African American workers.

“Understanding the Economy: Long-Term Unemployment in the African American Community” is the first in a series of JEC reports examining the unemployment situation among several demographic groups, including African Americans, Hispanics, youth, and women.  Prepared by the JEC’s Majority staff, the report draws from previously unpublished data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and found that though African Americans make up 11.5 percent of the labor force, they account for 17.8 percent of the unemployed, 20.3 percent of those unemployed for more than six months, and 22.1 percent of the workers unemployed for a year or more (see chart below). 

Other key report findings include:

  • From February 2007 to February 2010, unemployment among African American men more than doubled, climbing from 9.0 percent to19.0 percent.  Among African American women, unemployment increased from 7.1 percent to 13.1 percent during the same time period.     
  • The median duration of unemployment for African American workers also has doubled, increasing from less than three months before the recession began to almost six months in February 2010.  Forty-five percent of unemployed African Americans have been out of work for six months or more.
  • Younger African American workers have faced particularly high rates of unemployment.  In February 2010, more than two out of five African American teenagers were unemployed, compared to an overall teen unemployment rate of slightly over 25 percent.

“Our first report in the JEC’s in-depth series on long-term unemployment shows that African Americans have been hit especially hard during the Great Recession, facing higher rates of unemployment and longer spells of unemployment than the overall population,” said Chair of the Joint Economic Committee (JEC) Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney.  “By better understanding the unemployment challenges facing specific communities, Congress can design and enact innovative policies that effectively address these challenges and help people get back to work.  This new report will help move us down that path.”

“Every day in the neighborhoods around my home, I see the signs that this recession has been particularly hard in my community,” said Congressman Elijah Cummings (MD-7), member of both the Joint Economic Committee and the Congressional Black Caucus. “This report puts into numbers what has been obvious, from the beginning. The so-called Great Recession has been absolutely crushing for the African American community. The work the JEC has done to highlight the incredibly high long-term unemployment rate among African American workers is very important, and it will be particularly useful to the Congressional Black Caucus as we continue the fight for policies that will address this issue that is so critical in our communities.”

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 The Joint Economic Committee, established under the Employment Act of 1946, was created by Congress to review economic conditions and to analyze the effectiveness of economic policy.

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