While economists were encouraged that the February jobs numbers weren’t as dire as expected, there was even good news about Black employment: the unemployment rate for African-Americans fell from 12.1 percent in January to 12 percent in February, in an economy that added 175,000 jobs.
Economists took the slight uptick in the overall unemployment rate from a five-year low of 6.6 percent in January to 6.7 percent in February as a sign that more people are looking for work, which means they are perhaps feeling more confidence in the economy.
The 175,000 jobs added were much more than the 139,000 that ADP had estimated in its monthly report.
“Over the past three months, payrolls’ growth has averaged 130,000, which is pretty respectable given the widespread weather disruptions,” University of Michigan economist Justin Wolfers said in a tweet, according to the Associated Press.
Reuters also reported news from the Labor Department that the number of people filing first-time unemployment insurance claims fell last week by 26,000 to a seasonally adjusted 323,000, which is the lowest in three months.
“February 2014 was the 48th straight month of private-sector job growth, with businesses adding 8.7 million jobs over that time. Despite a major snowstorm that hit the East Coast during the reference week for the labor market surveys, the rate of job growth picked up from the December and January pace,” Jason Furman, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers.
Not surprisingly, Republicans took the jobs numbers as a chance to bash Obamacare.
“Hard working Americans shouldn’t have to accept this new normal of reduced hours and wages caused by Obamacare. Cutting hours and wages by as much as 25 percent is just one of the many reasons Obamacare is hurting those looking for work,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said. “It’s time to admit this law has failed and stop the harm it is causing innocent people just trying to get by and earn a decent paycheck.”
A piece on TheWire.com by Philip Bump pointed out that the Black unemployment rate has always been at least 60 percent higher than the white rate since the government began collecting separate data in 1972.
Bump’s story said the closest the two unemployment rates have ever been was in August 2009, right after the official end of the recession. At that time, the rate for Blacks was 14.8 percent, while it was 8.9 percent for whites—clearly the numbers were so close because the white rate was so high. Black unemployment has been over 10 percent more than three-quarters of the time since 1972.