An Economist Suggests that African Americans’ High Unemployment Rate Reflects Resiliency in the Hunt for Work

Job seekers listen to a womenjobfairs.com representative as they wait in line outside prior to the start of a job fair in New York, U.S., on Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2010. Photograph: Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Job seekers listen to a womenjobfairs.com representative as they wait in line outside prior to the start of a job fair in New York, U.S., on Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2010. Photograph: Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The so-called recovery of the US economy has not been equally kind to everyone. Even as the unemployment rate has remained steady at 6.3% last month, the unemployment rate for African Americans, coming in at 11.5%, is currently more than twice as high as that for white Americans. 

Last month, the difference was even larger with African American unemployment rate reaching 2.2 times the unemployment rate of white Americans. According to Valerie Wilson of the Economic Policy Institute, this was the biggest discrepancy since 2007.

Her explanation for this? African Americans don’t give up.

Yes, African American employment has not recovered at the rate of white employment, but that’s not all. The other factor to consider, Wilson wrote last month, is that unemployed African Americans are more resilient and less likely to give up their job searches.

[R]elative to whites, a higher share of jobless blacks have continued to seek work – which means they have remained in the labor force and therefore been counted as unemployed. This is reflected in the fact that the percentage of blacks in the labor force (employed or actively seeking work) has fallen by less than the comparable figure for whites (a 2.8 percentage-point decline versus a 3.3 percentage-point fall).

US Money blacks unemployment
Photograph: Economic Policy institute

Since the Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates the unemployment rate based only on people who say they are are continuously looking for jobs, the rate for African Americans is twice as high.

Case in point: In May, the African American labor force was estimated at 18.7m with 2.15 million of African Americans searching for work. The labor force for white Americans was estimated at 123.3 million with just about 6.6 million of white Americans searching for work.

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Source: Guardian UK | 

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