By Frederick H. Lowe
The unemployment rate for African-American men 20 years old and older dropped slightly in December compared to November, but the jobless rate for black men still remains twice as high as that of other major worker groups, which includes whites, Hispanics and Asians.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Friday that last month’s unemployment rate for black men was 11.0 percent compared to 11.2 percent in November. The labor-participation rate, or how many black men were actively applying for jobs, improved to 67.8 percent in December, compared with 66.9 percent in November, according to BLS’s monthly household survey.
The BLS reported that nonfarm payroll employment rose by 252,000 jobs in December and the unemployment rate fell to 5.6 percent. Most job gains occurred in professional and business services, construction, food services, bars and manufacturing.
Officials at the Brookings Institution, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, said the December numbers capped the best year for employment since 1999. More than 95 percent of job gains in December and throughout the year came from the private sector.
Brookings officials also noted that the job market was further helped by government hiring. “Government agencies added 12,000 (workers) to their payrolls in December and an average of 8,000 employees a month over the course of the year,” said Gary Burtless, senior fellow at Brookings. In contrast, 2013, the number of public employees fell 3,000 per month in 2013, making it the fifth successive year that government payrolls shrank.
The downside to the good news was that there was scant improvement in wages. “The average hourly wage of all employees was $24.57 in December, 1.7 percent higher than the average hourly pay in December 2013,” Burtless said.
The unemployment rate for black women 20 years old and older was 8.2 percent in December compared withto 9.5 percent in November. The labor-participation for African-American women declined to 61.2 percent in December from 61.9 percent in November.
The improving jobs picture helped lower the overall African-American unemployment rate to 10.4 percent in December compared withto 11.0 percent in November.
Still, the African-American jobless rate on a seasonally adjusted basis remains much higher than the white unemployment rate of 4.8 percent. The Hispanic rate was 6.5 percent, and the Asian unemployment rate on a non-seasonally adjusted basis was 4.2 percent.