The recent release of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that Black unemployment declined during the month of July. It had reached 16.2 percent and dropped over the course of the month to 15.9 percent. While the number is an improvement, it is still nearly double that of white Americans.
Black women were the greatest beneficiaries of the decline, dropping from 13.8 percent to 13.4 percent. Black men saw their unemployment rate remain unchanged, staying at 17 percent. Black men are experiencing the highest unemployment rate of all gender/race categories.
Both white males and white females saw their unemployment rates dip. White men experienced a decline from 8.1 percent to 7.9 percent. White females, who have the lowest unemployment rate of any race/gender category, saw a drop from 7.1 percent to 7 percent.
Black teenagers continue to be hard hit by the persistent economic downturn, with an unemployment rate of 39.2 percent. White teen unemployment is 23 percent. The overall unemployment outcome was good for the Obama Administration, as the entire nation saw unemployment drop to 9.1 percent for all groups combined.
The economic puzzle is one that continues to serve as an achilles heel for President Obama. The economy remains stubbornly sluggish, and Wall Street has seen a major dip in stock prices this week as a result of reduced spending coming out of the debt ceiling negotiations. Cutting spending at such a critical point in the economic recovery puts our nation at risk of experiencing a double-dip recession; and global markets were shaky on the prospect that things might take a turn for the worse. Many economists felt that the original stimulus package in 2008 was not strong enough to strengthen the entire economy, and further cuts at this time would only serve to worsen economic uncertainty.
While the improvement in unemployment numbers for this month is a victory for the Obama Administration, it is a small one. Black unemployment remains destructively high, and neither the Obama Administration, nor Congress, has produced any plans for targeted policy to manage economic inequality throughout the nation. To date, Black wealth has been decimated by the recession (dropping from 1/10th to 1/50th that of whites over the last three years) and there are no signs that it’s going to improve anytime soon.
At the same time, the president has been protected from the criticism received by his colleagues on Capitol Hill. A recent CBS News/ New York Times poll showed that the approval rating for Congress is at its lowest level since the poll started in 1977. Over 82 percent of all Americans disapprove of Congress right now, with much of the disdain coming from recent debt ceiling negotiations. President Obama came out better than Congress, with an approval rating of 47 percent.
We’re a long way from any form of economic recovery and I’m not sure if anyone in the White House or Congress has the tools or know-how to find a solution. Republican presidential candidates claim that they can do a better job, but it is likely that they would only continue to widen the gap between the rich and the poor.
Most disturbing is that the last recession was quite a bit different from the others in that it reflected serious fundamental problems in the way our economy runs itself. Similar to the human body, there are some injuries that heal completely and some that leave you crippled for life. I fully suspect that the United States will never be the same again.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Finance Professor at Syracuse University and author of the book, “Black American Money.” To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.