City Desk

Happy Unemployment Day

Another month, another sign that the economy isn't improving: the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the unemployment rate—9.1 percent—is unchanged, and about 103,000 jobs were added to the economy last month. In a timely move, The Root D.C. went over to Ward 8, where unemployment is at 20 percent, to talk to some skilled laborers who can't find jobs, including 53-year-old Tyrone Jackson:

By trade I’m an electrician. I’ve always wanted to be one. Yup. And I can’t get a job in D.C.

Sometimes, I just go down to the work sites and check out these people who are working. I see 20 or 30 electricians coming out and none of them look like me. It’s been terrible, as far as this working relationship goes with Washington, D.C.

All I see is cranes in this city: They’ve got cranes on 7th street. They’ve got cranes all up and down on 14th street. All these cranes in this city and I ain’t working.

I started in 1983. I’m 53 years old and I don’t have a pension. Nothing. It’s been terrible. It really has. Even my own union can’t help find me work. They tell me there’s nothing we can do. I never thought it would be like this. I never did. It’s always excuse after excuse after excuse.

Statistics show that the longer a person is unemployed, the harder it is for them to get a job. In some cases, that's because their skills are eroding. But, in others, it's because unemployment, even in this economy, is considered by employers to be a personal failing. And for many African Americans who never actually recovered from the early-2000s recession, long-term unemployment has been a part of the picture since before 2008.

While economists and politicians fret over 9.1 percent employment nationwide, unemployment for blacks has only dropped below nine percent a handful of times since employment statistics started being recorded. Compound that with racial bias—yes, it still exists—and all of these things add up to a dire employment situation for black Americans.

Photo by the SEIU via Flickr / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License

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  • Legba Carrefour

    Do you have any idea what the U-6 measure is showing? That's the rate that includes discouraged workers and the underemployed and is a bit of a broader measure of raw shit-tastic-ness (which is an official economic term LOOKITUPYO). I got curious after reading this and dug around but all I could find was something from 2010 showing a U-6 of about 16% with nothing current and nothing that would give by-ward or by-zipcode stats.