Report Series Examines Employment Trends for Black Americans
Three briefs released by the Center for Economic and Policy Research — and funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation — provide insight into what’s driving the high unemployment rate among Black youth and adults in the United States. The reports also outline policy recommendations that would increase employment for Black Americans. The briefs were authored or co-authored by Algernon Austin, director for race and economic justice at the Center for Economic and Policy Research.
“Unemployment has consequences that go far beyond individual households and can hurt the economic health of entire communities,” says Allison Gerber, the Foundation’s director of employment, education and training. “These reports shed light on how Black youth are facing a lack of opportunities, discrimination and other factors that are barriers to steady jobs, while offering ideas for how lawmakers can begin to build a labor market that works for everyone.”
Resources to Curb High Black Unemployment
“High Joblessness for Black Youth: More Than 500,000 Jobs are Needed”
This brief focuses on the high rate of joblessness experienced by Black youth in the United States.
Austin finds that Black youth are less likely to be employed compared to their white counterparts because of long-standing patterns of discrimination in the labor market, citing research that shows employers will consistently choose a white worker over an equivalently qualified Black candidate.
Additional findings from the report include:
- Youth unemployment rates are high, but the unemployment rate of Black youth has been roughly twice the rate of white youth since 2007. Given that Black youth have a proportionally higher birth rate than white youth, more Black youth should be employed, not fewer.
- The discrepancy in unemployment between Black and white youth could be closed if Black youth had an additional 192,000 jobs. To close the employment rate gap between those groups, nearly three times as many jobs – 540,000 – would need to be created.
To take action, the report recommends that policymakers create a jobs program that targets communities with high unemployment rates. It argues that a subsidized jobs program, like those used during the Great Depression by the Works Progress Administration, would not only reduce joblessness, but also stimulate the economy and reduce social services spending.
The Jobs Crisis for Black Men is a Lot Worse Than You Think
This report describes the disproportionate unemployment rate of Black men compared to their white counterparts. Some of the important data points raised include:
- Broadly, the health of the national job market does not appear to improve the unemployment rates faced by Black Americans as much as it does for workers of other races.
- Between 2000 and 2020, Black men between the ages of 25 and 54 experienced the highest rate of unemployment of any racial or gender group.
- The incarceration rate for Black men in the United States is six times the rate of white men. Although most incarcerated people work while in prison, these jobs pay little to no wages. As a result, labor market statistics exclude a large portion of the Black male population.
- Accounting for the high incarceration and mortality rates experienced by Black men, the report asserts that Black male joblessness costs the national economy roughly $50 billion per year.
“Toward Black Full Employment: A Subsidized Employment Proposal”
This brief explores the benefits of a subsidized employment program and how it could reduce the longstanding high unemployment rates experienced by Black Americans:
- A program of this kind would not only reduce unemployment for Black Americans, the brief asserts, but also for other groups, such as Native Americans, who experience high rates of joblessness.
- A program subsidized with government funding also would benefit employers by covering some or all wage costs associated with hiring and training a new employee.