By Freddie Allen
NNPA Washington Correspondent
WASHINGTON (NNPA) – During another slow month of economic recovery, the unemployment rate for Black women 20 years and older fell to 9.9 percent in February, the lowest rate for that group in five years, according to the Labor Department.
Meanwhile, Black men and Black teenagers continue to lag behind other major worker groups.
In March 2009, the unemployment rate for Black men 20 years and over was 15.4 percent. According to the latest jobs report, the jobless rate for Black men is 12.9 percent, the same rate recorded in February 2013.
The unemployment rate for White men 20 years and older was 6.3 percent a year ago and now it is down to 5.5 percent. The unemployment rate for White women was 6 percent in February 2013 and has declined to 5.1 percent in February 2014.
The economy added 175,000 jobs in February and the jobs numbers for December and January were revised up for a net gain of 25,000 jobs.
The unemployment rate ticked up a little to 6.7 percent, most likely because some workers became more optimistic about finding a job and re-entered the labor force, said Bernard Anderson, an economist and professor emeritus at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
“The February report is an accurate indication of where the economy is now,” said Valerie Wilson, who was recently named director of the Program on Race, Ethnicity, and the Economy at the Economic Policy Institute. “We are in a recovery. Things are moving in the right direction, but they are moving very slowly and until we are able to increase demand to a point where employers start hiring again, we are going to continue to see these slow job reports.”
The number of long-term unemployed workers increased by 203,000 according to the Labor Department, accounting for 37 percent of the unemployed. Blacks account for 23 percent of the long-term unemployed in the United States.
“The longer people are out of work their skills erode more and they face discrimination in hiring,” said Wilson. “They have a difficult time getting into the labor force the longer they’ve been out. It’s a matter of labor underutilization. We have people that are willing ready and able to work, but are unable to find jobs.”
Wilson said that increasing the minimum wage and extending emergency unemployment compensation to millions of Americans would likely increase demand and stimulate the economy, two proposals that have come under fire on Capitol Hill.
In a statement on the Labor Department’s jobs report, Congressman Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and a member of the Joint Economic Committee, said that we must ensure that every American has the opportunity to participate in the job market and receive fair compensation for that work.
“It is past time for an up-or-down vote on raising the minimum wage, which would lift hundreds of thousands of Americans out of poverty and help us address the growing economic inequality in our nation,” said Cummings. “America succeeds when we can all earn a livable wage.”