African-Americans left behind in US job market as economy recovers

Job seekers wait in line at Kennedy-King College to attend a job fair hosted by the city of Chicago (AFP Photo /  Scott Olson)
While US unemployment is decreasing overall, one minority group is being left out of the recovery. African-Americans are continuing to lose jobs, with the black unemployment rate now standing at 14.3 percent.

While national unemployment decreased to 7.9 percent in Oct. 2012, the numbers aregrim for African-Americans, whose unemployment rate jumped from 13.4 percent to 14.3 percent in just one month, according to data from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The difference in the youth unemployment rate between black Americans and whites is even more dramatic. The overall unemployment rate of those aged 18-29 is 12 percent, while it is a staggering 21.4 percent among blacks.

And the situation is even more dire for black women, who lost more jobs during the recovery than during the recession, the Guardian reports. This is in large part due to the cuts in public sector jobs and the increase in private sector jobs, according to a recent study by the National Women’s Law Center. During the recession, black women lost 233,000 jobs. During the recovery, they lost 258,000.

Public sector jobs, of which one million have been cut during President Obama’s first term, employed a large number of black women and carried them into the middle class. The loss in public sector jobs was the worst on record when Obama first took office. Many such jobs were in local government education, employing teachers, librarians, guidance counselors and administrators. Although four million private sector jobs have since been created, the government cannot control whom private employers give jobs to.

“It’s no accident that during September of this year, when the public sector actually added 10,000 jobs, all of the job gains that were made by black people belonged to black women,” writes The Guardian’s Mychal Denzel Smith.

“The public sector has offered, not full equality, but a reprieve from despair. This recession and recovery has been anything but,” he added.

Replacing public sector jobs with private sector jobs has taken a drastic toll on African-Americans. Yolanda Spivey, a black woman who sought work in the insurance industry, was repeatedly rejected by employers until she changed her name on a resume to one that sounded like it could belong to a white woman. She also listed a second identity as “white” on, a website that connects job seekers with employers.

Over the course of one week, Spivey received no job offers or phone calls, while the “white” name with the same resume received nine phone calls.While no employers viewed Spivey’s resume, twenty-four looked at Bianca White’s. The woman, who has been unemployed for two years and has a college degree, documented her struggle in a Techyville article.

Even if Spivey had found a job, chances are she wouldn’t have a salary as high as a similarly qualified white man.

“Women earn only 77 cents for every dollar men earn, with women of color at an even greater disadvantage with 64 cents on the dollar for African-American women and 56 cents for Hispanic women,” the White House wrote in a statement on the Paycheck Fairness Act in June.

The recession has only worsened the income gap between blacks and whites. This wealth gap doubled since the mortgage crisis of 2008, since African-Americans were twice as likely to have been affected by the housing crisis as whites, a ThinkProgress article points out.

“Communities of color are mired in an economic depression. Yet the president struggles to publicly acknowledge it,” wrote Colorlines’ Imara Hones before the election. “The choice not to do so, presents Obama with a political problem when he can least afford it.”

Although Obama was reelected, the problem persists. As overall unemployment goes down with an increase in private sector jobs, the lack of public sector jobs has kept black Americans out of a workplace where racism still lingers