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During a discussion of high unemployment on the July 17, 2011, edition of NBC’s Meet the Press, Marc Morial, the president of the National Urban League, turned the spotlight on unemployment among African Americans.
"We have a jobs crisis in America," said Morial, the former mayor of New Orleans, "and I think that the debt-ceiling discussion should be decoupled from the deficit discussion, and the nation needs a jobs plan. We have 14 million people out of work. The black unemployment rate is at stifling levels. It's, in fact, increased since the recovery has begun. "
We decided to check whether the black unemployment rate has gotten worse since the recovery began.
We looked at federal Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers starting in June 2009 -- the month the National Bureau of Economic Research determined was the end of the last recession and the start of the recovery.
In June 2009, the unemployment rate for African Americans was 14.9 percent. In the most recent month, June 2011, the rate was 16.2. So the black unemployment rate definitely did rise over that period.
If you look closer at the numbers, they have actually zig-zagged a bit. The rate peaked at 16.5 percent in March and April 2010, before falling as low as 15.3 percent in February 2011. Since then, the rate has climbed almost a full percentage point over four months.
Still, in the period Morial specified, the black unemployment rate increased by more than a full percentage point.
We should note that Morial has some justification for focusing on black unemployment rates.
Of the four major ethnic groups tracked by BLS -- whites, blacks, Hispanics and Asian Americans -- only blacks saw unemployment rise over the period Morial cited.
White unemployment dropped from 8.7 percent to 8.1 percent from June 2009 to June 2011. Hispanic unemployment dropped from 12.2 percent to 11.6 percent. And Asian unemployment dropped from 8.2 percent to 6.8 percent. All told, the overall unemployment rate fell from 9.5 percent to 9.2 percent.
In fact, some segments of the black labor force showed even higher rates of unemployment. For instance, the most recent unemployment rate for blacks between the ages of 16 and 24 years was 31.4 percent.
We find nothing amiss in Morial’s claim that "the black unemployment rate (has) increased since the recovery has begun." So we rate his statement True.
Marc Morial, comments on NBC’s Meet the Press, July 17, 2011
Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey" (main index page), accessed July 18, 2011
National Bureau of Economic Research, "U.S. Business Cycle Expansions and Contractions," accessed July 18, 2011
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