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Unemployment Hitting Black Women Hardest

By Aileen Dodd Contributing Writer | 9/6/2013, 6 a.m.
The unemployment rates for Blacks is worse now than it was when President Obama first took office in 2009 and steered the nation through a recession. 

Last week, as the nation celebrated the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, President Barack Obama charged that the economic divide between the races and genders is a sign that  equal opportunity for all still eludes many Americans.

Despite the nation’s trudge toward economic recovery, the Black community has been slower to benefit from the creation of new jobs over the past four years. The unemployment rates for Blacks is worse now than it was when President Obama first took office in 2009 and steered the nation through a recession. 

The unemployment rates for Blacks reached 12.6 percent in July 2013; nearly twice that of whites, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The segment of the Black community hardest hit by the struggle for decent jobs and competitive wages may not be who you think.

Surprisingly, trends show Black women are finding it harder to land jobs than men.

Chastity Ray of Gwinnett County is among the Black females feeling the sting of joblessness. She has been out of work for five months. In the past two years, Ray said she has gone through six temporary jobs and part-time contract positions that only offered short-term work and low wages.

“I am looking for full-time work in customer service that pays more than minimum wage,” said Ray as she left the unemployment office last week. “I have three kids.”

Among all women in the nation, Black females like Ray are part of the only sub-group that has not seen significant declines in unemployment since the nation’s economic recovery began in 2009, a July study on unemployment rates by the National Women’s Law Center reports. Women, overall, lag behind men in the race for jobs.

“It’s a very tough job market,” said Don Sabbarese, director of the Econmetric Center at Kennesaw State University. “Unfortunately, when you have a recession and a recovery, it’s a slow recovery. On average, those groups that have less education and skill level are going to be effected more adversely. Employers can be very selective.”

The United States, which currently grows about 175,000 to 200,000 jobs monthly, still does not have as many jobs as it did before the recession, Sabbarese pointed out.

“Seventy-five percent of the new jobs created are part-time jobs,” he said.

In June 2013, approximately 12 percent of  Black women age 20 and older were jobless and searching for work. In that same month,  6 percent of white women and  8.6 percent of Hispanic women were unemployed.

During that same time, Black men, who make up slightly less than half of the labor force among Blacks, saw their jobless figures improve. The rate declined slightly from 13.5 percent unemployed in May to 13 percent in June.

The ranks of Black men with a job grew from a May 2011 low of 56 percent to 59.7 percent in January 2012, when 700,000 more Blacks found work in professional and business services, education and health care fields, labor statistics show.