Report Series Examines Employment Trends for Black Americans

Posted December 8, 2022
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
A Black man smiles while sitting across from two white hiring managers, whose backs are to the camera. The Black man shakes the hand of the male hiring manager, while holding his resume in his other hand.

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.

Learn how now jobs” are prepar­ing young adults for life­long careers

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