Under Trump, Unemployment Rate Rises for Black Workers

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By Freddie Allen (Managing Editor, NNPA Newswire)

During President Donald Trump’s first full month in office, the Black unemployment rate rose as the White unemployment rate fell, according to the latest jobs report.

Key employment indicators show that Black workers lost ground in February. The unemployment rate for Black workers increased from 7.7 percent in January to 8.1 percent in February. The labor force participation rate, which is the share of the population that is employed or looking for work, ticked down from 62.4 percent to 62.3 percent in February. The employment-population ratio, which is the share of the population that has jobs, also declined for Black workers from 57.5 percent to 57.3 percent in February.

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Meanwhile, the White unemployment rate inched closer to 4 percent, decreasing from 4.3 percent in January to 4.1 percent in February. The labor force participation rate and the employment-population ratio for White workers also improved.

The jobless rate for White men 20 years-old and over dipped below 4 percent in February (3.8 percent). Even though the labor force participation rate for White men slipped from 72.1 percent to 72 percent, the employment-population ratio for White men increased from 69.2 percent in January to 69.3 percent last month.

The unemployment rate for White women 20 years-old and over decreased from 3.9 percent in January to 3.7 percent in February. The labor force participation rate and the employment-population ratio for White women also showed gains in February, which indicates that White women were able to join the labor market and find work at higher rates last month compared to January.

Black men fared worse than other adult groups in the job market last month.

The unemployment rate for Black men over 20 years-old increased from 7.3 percent in January to 7.8 percent in February. The labor force participation rate slipped from 68.1 percent in January to 67.8 percent in February. The employment-population ratio also declined, falling from 63.1 percent to 62.5 percent in February, the biggest decline for any adult group that month.

Not only did the unemployment rate for both Black men and women 20 years-old and over move in the opposite direction to their White counterparts, the share of Black men and women that looked for jobs and found work decreased from January to February.

Before his inauguration in January, President Donald Trump often questioned the Labor Department’s monthly jobs report, but when the latest report was released on March 10, White House officials expressed their enthusiasm about the results.

During the press briefing after February’s jobs report was released, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was asked if President Trump believed that February’s jobs report was accurate.

Spicer answered, “[President Trump] said to quote him very clearly, ‘They may have been phony in the past, but it’s very real now.’”

Laughter was heard audibly in the White House Press Briefing Room.

Even as the White House appeared to be claiming another victory on the jobs front, Ben White, the chief economic correspondent for POLITICO and a CNBC contributor noted that February’s big jobs number was very similar to 2016 and 2015.

“Hard to see any Trump bump in these numbers. Nearly identical to last two Febs. Feb. 2015: 238K Feb 2016: 237K Feb. 2017: 235K,” White tweeted.

Others said that February’s jobs report was just a continuation of President Obama’s policies.

In a statement about the latest jobs report, Michael Madowitz, an economist for the Center for American Progress, said that the current Labor market trends originating in the Obama years continued this month, with 235,000 jobs added and the unemployment rate decreasing slightly to 4.7 percent.

“Since the employment recovery began in February 2010, we’ve added nearly 16 million jobs, and the steady tightening of the labor market has finally started to deliver wage growth for workers, increasing 2.8 percent over the past year,” Madowitz said in the statement. “These statistics show that the economy has continued to build on the foundation and success of the past few years and tell the story of the economy far more accurately than the Trump administration’s focus on the 30 large companies in the Dow.”

Madowitz continued: “In his first 49 days in office, President Donald Trump has discussed loosening oversight in financial markets, which may force the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates to prevent financial bubbles. Rolling back protections, updating overtime standards, and endangering Americans’ retirement savings have delighted Trump’s Wall Street and corporate base but are cold comfort for the American worker.”

In a statement about the February’s jobs report, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) said that President Trump inherited a growing economy from his predecessor.

“President Trump claimed he was handed ‘a mess’ by the Obama Administration, but we know that is not accurate,” said Scott. “Under President Obama the unemployment rate was cut in half while GDP and median income rose.”

Scott quickly pivoted to the embattled Affordable Care Act (ACA), adding that the Republican bill to repeal and replace the ACA would cause millions to lose their insurance, force families to pay more for fewer protections, defund Planned Parenthood, and give huge tax cuts to people in the top 1 percent.