Black men returned to the job market in April


— The Black unemployment rate ticked down from 8.9 percent in March to 8.8 percent in April and Black men showed gains in the labor market, according to the latest jobs report from the Labor Department.

The national unemployment rate was stagnant at 5 percent and the jobless rate for White workers hasn’t changed since December 2015 and was 4.3 percent again in April.

William Spriggs, the chief economist for the AFL-CIO, an organization that represent 56 unions represents 12.5 million workers in the United States, tweeted that April was “Another month Blacks with Associates Degrees have lower unemployment rate than Whites who are high school dropouts, but higher than HS grads.”

Spriggs also noted that the loss of jobs in the federal government and local public education were “big drags” on the labor market.

The unemployment rate for Black men over 20 years old rose from 8.7 percent in March to 9.5 percent in April. The jobless rate for White men, ticked up slightly from 3.9 percent in March to 4 percent last month.

The unemployment rate for Black women over 20 years old was 8 percent in March and 6.9 percent in April. The unemployment rate for White women increased from 3.9 percent in March to 4 percent in April.

In a blog for the Economic Policy Institute’s (EPI) website, Elise Gould, a senior economist for EPI, wrote that, “Even with the downward revisions to March, job growth looks slower than first quarter of this year (averaging 203,000) or last quarter of 2015 (averaging 282,000).”

Gould continued: “While it is true that as the economy reaches full employment, job growth would be expected to slow, we are not nearly close enough to full employment to view this slow down as a positive move.”

While other adult worker groups declined in some key economic indicators in April, Black men returned to the labor market last month. The labor force participation rate (LFPR), which is the share of workers who are employed or currently looking for jobs, rose slightly for Black men over 20 years-old from 67.2 percent in March to 68.1 percent in April. The employment-population ratio (E-POP), which is the share of the population that is employed, increased for Black men from 61.4 percent in March to 61.6 percent in April.

Meanwhile the LFPR for White men ticked down from 72.3 percent in March to 72.1 percent in April. The E-POP for White men decreased from 69.4 percent in March to 69.2 percent in April.

The LFPR for Black women over 20 years-old fell more than a percentage point from 61.5 percent in March to 60.2 percent in April and the LFPR for White women slipped from 58 percent in March to 57.8 percent last month.

Gould also noted that the labor force participation rate for “prime-age workers” (25-54 years-old) also fell in April and the number of missing workers increased to 2.5 million.

“If the unemployment rate included these [missing] workers, who would be employed or looking for work if the labor market were stronger, it would be 6.5 percent, as opposed to the official rate of 5 percent,” said Gould. “In general, labor force participation has been on the rise (and the number of missing workers has been falling) so hopefully this is just a one-month blip in the data and next month we will continue will the more promising trends.”

Gould suggested that the economy needed steady gains in the labor force participation rate and stronger wage growth for a sustained period of time before economists can say that the U.S. job market is nearing full employment and a healthy economy.

In a statement about the most recent jobs report, Representative Bobby Scott (D-Va.) said that under President Obama and his Administration, we continue to recover from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

Scott blamed the Republican majorities in the United States House of Representatives and Senate for blocking a number of bold initiatives and policies crafted by the Labor Department that would “help protect retirees’ savings, workers on the job, and workers’ right to organize.”

Scott continued: “These attacks are a waste of the taxpayers’ time and money, and would be harmful to working families if they ever succeeded.”

Scott called for U.S. lawmakers to refocus their priorities and to support labor market reforms.

“Together, we can work on bipartisan solutions to boost wages, help workers balance work and family life, and level the playing field for American workers,” said Scott. “We owe it to working people to build on the economic progress we have seen these past 74 months.”