The Bureau of Labor Statistics released its monthly Employment Situation Summary today and there are signs that the nation’s economy may be tilting toward recovery. Today’s official government numbers follows the projections released yesterday by payroll giant ADP. The unemployment rate is now 8.9 percent and employment increased by 192,000 in February. The BLS reports employment gains in the manufacturing, construction, professional and business services, health care, and transportation and warehousing sectors.
Still, behind the positive trends belies the underlying issue of how Black Americans are on the periphery of the economic recovery. The white unemployment rate was 8 percent last month compared to 15.3 percent for Blacks, and the disparity is most stark between men. While the unemployment rate for white men stands at 7.8 percent, the rate for Black men is 16.2 percent. Black men have fared worse of all groups since the start of the recession in December 2007 and there has been little by the way of policy interventions from the Obama administration to address the situation. The unemployment rate for white women is 7.1 percent while it is 13 percent for Black women. Black young adults, age 16 to 21, whose wages often help meet household expenses, have an unemployment rate hovering close to 40 percent (38.4 percent).
Employment in manufacturing increased by 33,000 last month; with the sector adding 195,000 jobs since December 2009. Employment in construction also showed a positive trend, increasing by 33,000 jobs in February. The sector experienced a decline of 22,000 jobs in January. The service sector also continued to expand last month, picking up 47,000 jobs. The growth in the service sector came in employment services (29,000) and management and technical consulting (7,000). Health care was another positive area in the month of February. The sector added 43,000 jobs last month and over the last 12 months has added 260,000 jobs. Transportation and warehousing employment increased by 22,000 jobs in February, with half of the jobs gained in truck transportation.
There were 2.7 million people marginally attached to the labor force in February. These are individuals who were not in the labor force, wanted and were available for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the last 12 months. They were not counted among the officially unemployed because they had not searched for work in the four weeks preceding the Bureau of Labor Statistics survey. Among this group is 1 million discouraged workers, individuals who are not looking for work because they do not believe there are jobs available for them.