America’s unemployment rate dropped to 7.7 percent in February, the lowest mark in four years. Some 236,000 jobs were created during the month, according a report from the Labor Department Friday. February’s success continues a recent trend of recovery, and was the best statistically since the early months of the depression.
Part of the new hiring increase was the result of a smaller labor force, as economists noted the impact of recent retirements. The total number of workers shrunk by 130,000. If job creation were to continue at the same pace, the unemployment rate could fall below 7 percent before the end of the year. However, with sequester budget cuts coming into effect at the start of March, the rate of growth may decline.
“We think we’ll see some slowdown in April and May because of the sequester,” Michelle Meyer, senior United States economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, told the New York Times. “We’re going to see federal job cuts, and the spring is going to be a soft patch for the labor market.”
But while the country’s economy shows signs of recovery, black unemployment remains unchanged. Now at 13.8 percent, unemployment among African-Americans is almost double the national rate. For black teenagers, joblessness went up by almost 5 percent, from 37.8 to 43.1.
The sequester will likely affect black employment as well, as Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) warned earlier in the week. Speaking to BET.com, Cummings expressed concerns over the impact of budget cuts on education and Title 1.
“I see this as the beginning of a slippery slope to cut, cut, cut, to squeeze government. And in many instances African-American people need government to work for them,” he said. “They’re not working for handouts; they’re just trying to make sure that they have a hand.”