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A man walks by a “Now Hiring” sign outside a store on August 16, 2021, in Arlington, Virginia. | Source: OLIVIER DOULIERY / Getty

In yet another indication that Black America was being left behind by the country’s economic recovery, the jobs report for August showed that Black unemployment last month rate surged while joblessness for every other group fell.

The August jobs report was largely seen as underwhelming, if not a complete failure, for Black workers, what with recent gains being made in labor markets.

The rising Black unemployment rate nearly wiped out the notable hiring in July, when the jobs report showed that same rate falling a full percentage point. But, as of Friday, the Black unemployment rate stood at 8.8%, evidence that it was trending in the wrong direction following rates of 8.2% in July and 9.2% in June.

Meanwhile, the white unemployment rate dropped 0.3% to 4.5%; the Asian unemployment rate dropped 0.7% to 4.6%; and the unemployment rate for Hispanic and Latino workers fell 0.2% to 6.4%.

And while some of the sub-demographics within each group can typically fluctuate with each jobs report, in August, the unemployment rates for Black men, women and youth grew significantly along with the overall joblessness rate for all Black workers.

Notably, the unemployment rate for Black women, in particular, rose because hiring in the retail and hospitality industries ground to a halt after months of adding jobs. Women of color — and especially Black women — have had a harder time than other workers seeking employment because they historically do not fare well in weak economies.

“Going in and out of poverty really means that people are on this unstable foundation, so they can’t invest in their education, they can’t invest in picking careers,” Kate Bahn, the director of labor market policy at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, told the 19th, an independent, nonprofit newsroom reporting on gender, politics and policy. “They might be able to get into jobs and make ends meet, but they’re not able to plan for long-term investments that would lead to upward mobility.”

Black youth unemployment shot up 4.6%, the largest spike of any of the groups of Black workers.

The unemployment rate for Black teens jumped 4.6 percentage points to 17.9 percent. This is unfortunately still a low level for Black teens, but their unemployment rate has been at record lows in the prior three months.

The Center for Economic and Policy Research, an independent think tank that offers context when it comes to America’s economy, noted in an email to NewsOne that the 17.9% unemployment rate for Black youth is still relatively low — believe it or not — “but their unemployment rate has been at record lows in the prior three months.”

CNBC got even more granular and noted the uneven economic recovery as evidenced by the fact that Black workers with an associate degree had an unemployment rate that was more than a full percentage point higher than that of white high school dropouts.

The fact is that even though there is a growing number of Black people working or looking for work, there is still a much larger number not being hired.

“A lot of people find jobs, but a bigger share of those who went out looking didn’t,” AFL-CIO chief economist William Spriggs and former chair of Howard University’s economics department, told CNBC. “So, the Black unemployment rate has been going up because employers are still passing over Black workers.”

Spriggs added: “When you look at those numbers, it’s clear employers are saying, ‘We want workers, but not exactly.’”


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