One day after the financial markets plunged, triggering a mild panic among business and government leaders, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its monthly Employment Situation Summary for July and the numbers offer a little good news to a White House administration struggling to find daylight in a dismal economy. The BLS report also comes after a contentious debate on Capitol Hill over extending the nation’s debt ceiling that might have soured investors’ confidence and pushed private sector employers from their hiring plans. What is still clear is that the economy is not generating sufficient job growth to fuel a robust recovery and put millions of Americans back to work. The situation is dire for African-Americans, hardest hit in the labor market and for Black men, the most impacted among adult workers.
According to the July BLS report, the economy added 117,000 jobs, a number slightly above forecasts. The national unemployment rate dipped to 9.1 percent. The Black unemployment rate was down slightly to 15.9 percent but still frighteningly high compared to the white unemployment rate (8.1 percent) for July. Black men (20 and over) are still in the worst predicament in the labor market, facing a 17 percent unemployment rate, the worst among adult age workers. By contrast, the unemployment rate for white men is 7.9 percent. The unemployment rate for Black teenagers, age 16 to 19, registered at 39.2 percent. Just yesterday, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced an initiative targeting young Black and Latino men in the nation’s largest city, committing $30 million of his personal fortune to the effort along with a match of $30 million from billionaire George Soros. By just about every measure, the Black community was crushed by the recession and is being left behind in a sluggish recovery.
The BLS reports job gains in health care, retail trade, manufacturing, and mining. Health care employment rose by 31,000 jobs last month, with growth in ambulatory health care services and hospitals. The health care sector has added 299,000 jobs over the last 12 months. In retail trade, 26,000 new jobs were added in July, with gains in health and personal care stores. Job gains (24,000) in manufacturing were mainly in durable goods manufacturing and the sector benefitted from fewer than normal seasonal layoffs in the automotive and parts industry. Employment in mining increased by 9,000 last month as job gains came from support services to the industry. Job activity in construction, transportation and warehousing, financial services and leisure and hospitality showed little change over the last month.
However, employment in government continued to decline and the recent debt-ceiling compromise on Capitol Hill will likely force further reductions in the government workforce. The loss of government jobs is a troubling sign for the Black community since public sector employment has been a key factor in the emergence of a Black middle class. As government jobs evaporate, along with jobs in industries that traditionally employed African-Americans, the devastation will be widespread within the Black community.