NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) — While the overall unemployment rate for Americans fell in November, the jobless gap between African-Americans and all other races actually rose, continuing a disturbing trend that has many lawmakers up in arms.
The black community has suffered the hardest during the economic downturn, with an unemployment rate that currently stands at 15.6%. That’s a much higher rate than for all of the other races that the Labor Department tracks, including Hispanics (12.7%), whites (9.3%) and Asians (7.3%).
The jobless rate for blacks has also grown much faster than for other races.
The difference between the unemployment rates for blacks and whites fell to an all-time low of 3.5 percentage points in August 2007. As the economy fell into a recession, that gap rapidly grew. By April 2009, the gap hit a 13-year high, doubling to a staggering 7 percentage points.
Though the separation between white and black jobless rates has narrowed slightly since the spring, it is still trending higher, rising to 6.3 percentage points in November from 6.2 points in the previous month.
The trend has many in Washington heated.
“We’re so focused on ‘too big to fail’ that we’re treating this issue as ‘too little to matter,’” said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus’ jobs task force. “We have a serious problem, and the army of the unemployed is growing darker by the month.”
Cleaver said the main reason for such a high rate of black unemployment is a lack of opportunities for proper job training in urban communities. That’s an issue that the Obama administration says it is working on with stimulus money and other government-funded programs.
“Traditionally, these groups are most impacted when there’s a recession,” Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis told CNNMoney.com.
Solis said that through stimulus and Labor Department grant programs, the government has targeted job training in communities with high unemployment, particularly heavily urban communities with high concentrations of African-Americans and Latinos.
“We have had some success in doing that, but of course we have a long way to go,” Solis said.