The release of the jobs numbers today showed that the U.S. economy added 157,000 new jobs in January, causing a slight rise in the jobless rate, up to 7.9 percent, while black unemployment remained stagnant at 13.8 percent.
The statistics provided by the Labor Department were below the expectations of economists, who were predicting gains of 165,000, and considerably less than the revised number of 195,000 in December, which included Christmas season. The new numbers were too low to prevent an uptick in the unemployment rate from 7.8 percent in December.
But after the news yesterday that the U.S. economy had contracted 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012 — the first dip since the recession ended in 2009 — the modest jobs creation was a welcome development, indicating there isn’t another recession likely on the horizon.
The difficulty with lowering black unemployment was illustrated in the details of the jobs report: the private sector added 166,000 jobs, but the government cut 9,000 jobs, with more cutbacks expected in coming months. African-Americans are disproportionately employed in the public sector, so a hiring increase in the private sector won’t budge black unemployment rates, particularly when the government is slashing jobs.
NAACP President Ben Jealous brought attention to the plight of blacks in this economy during an appearance last Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press.
“Right now when you look at joblessness in this country – the country is pretty much back to where it was when this president started. White people in this country are doing a bit better. Black folks are doing a full point worse,” Jealous said.
When President Obama took office, the unemployment rate for blacks was 12.7 percent; now it’s 13.8 percent.
“The big issues of this day also include marriage equality, they include comprehensive immigration reform, they include making sure that we lift all boats,” Jealous said. ”With this president having said to us we need to invest in strategies that lifts all boats, now that some boats are clearly stuck, the question is will Congress join him in getting those boats unstuck too?”