Here’s a story you were very unlikely to see on CNN, MSNBC, in the New York Times or the Washington Post. As much as low unemployment numbers are a non-story for much of the MSM as long as there’s a Republican in the White House, one specific segment of the employment forces is making inroads rarely, if ever, seen before. Unemployment among black Americans has been hovering at or just above seven percent for past couple of months. That’s still shamefully worse than the overall unemployment figure, but to put it in context, it’s also very close to the best it’s been since Nixon was in office. (CNS News)
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics( BLS), the unemployment rate for black Americans is the lowest it has been since the year 2000, 17 years ago.
In November, the national unemployment rate for black Americans, ages 16 and over, was 7.3%.
The last time it was 7.3% was in the year 2000, during the months September, October and November.
During the Bush and Obama years (2001 -2016), the black unemployment rate fluctuated between 7.7% and a high of 16.8%.
In September, the unemployment rate for black workers briefly hit seven percent. It’s not been below seven since 1972. Just chew that number over for a minute.
Now comes the hard part. This is something that Donald Trump actually addressed on the campaign trail in 2016 but it will also prove to be one of the most daunting challenges. While the economy continues to improve and the overall unemployment figures drop, black unemployment dropped as well because a high tide lifts all boats. But particularly in economically struggling, low-income urban areas, the reality is that some boats are never lifted quite as high as others. How do we address that?
This is one of those endemic problems where there’s just not going to be a single, silver bullet that fixes the situation. We need to be able to attract more major employers offering higher wage jobs in urban areas. We also need schools turning out skilled workers with the education and tools required to take those jobs. But attracting those employers and improving urban schools are challenges which are complicated by other conditions. Tax rates in major cities tend to be too high for new businesses to want to set up shop when more favorable economic conditions can be found elsewhere. Also, at least in some of our cities, violent crime rates remain too high. It’s harder to attract workers when you can’t assure them of a relatively safe environment when they leave the office or factory.
Elect municipal leaders who are willing to work to bring down taxes, invest more in fighting crime and getting the community involved in improving the schools. When we see movement in that direction it should be easier to attract new, better employers into the cities. And then we’ll hopefully see the black unemployment rate sinking to reach parity with the rest of the country. It’s a big job, but it’s never going to happen if we’re not willing to at least try.