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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press Black Teen Employment Hits Record Low and No One Notices

Black Teen Employment Hits Record Low and No One Notices

Sunday, 10 October 2010 13:30
One of the striking pieces of data in the September employment report was the fact that the employment to population ratio for black teens plunged by 2.6 percentage points to 11.7 percent, a record low.

Black teens were already taking it on the chin in this downturn. The August employment rate was down by more than 10 percentage points from the pre-recession level. It was down by 20 percentage points from the peak employment rate for black teens during the boom in 2000.

Remarkably, this fact seems to have gotten virtually no attention in the media. While everyone noted the weakness of September data, none of the major outlets seems to have commented on the incredibly dismal job prospects for black teens.

No doubt this stems in part from a new political correctness where powerbrokers don’t note the devastation that their policies have inflicted on disadvantaged groups. Undoubtedly many of these people would attribute the low employment rates to inadequate motivation to work or a lack of the necessary skills.

These explanations run into the problem that black teens seem to have been plenty motivated to work just a few years ago. Just a decade ago, the percentage of black teens who had the motivation and skills to gain employment was almost three times as high as it is today.

We can believe that the necessary skills for employment changed at an incredibly rapid rate to produce this plunge in employment rates or we can we believe that a collapse in aggregate demand led to a sharp reduction in employment opportunities. The latter explanation seems far more likely, which puts the blame on the policymakers, not black teens.

In either case, the reporters covering the September employment report should have noticed.

Comments (7)Add Comment
written by izzatzo, October 10, 2010 3:03
They'll notice over time. It'll show up as an automatic stabilizer effect in a recession, hailed by the media as creating employment by the private sector as more young blacks are packed into privatized prisons.
Obvious Solution
written by Robert, October 10, 2010 6:35
It's amazing how even liberals won't mention the one obvious thing that could be done to boost employment for black teens, even though Dean alluded to it in the previous post: cut back on immigration and deport those who have entered illegally. Immigration is a tax that takes money from American laborers and distributes it to employers and to the immigrants themselves. If you want to know a big reason for black teen umemployment, go into a fast food restaurant or to a construction site and listen for Spanish.
written by Peter T, October 10, 2010 11:34
Advocates of blacks are predominantly Democratic leaning and might want to avoid bringing attention to unemploymetn before the November election. If they are not but more libertarian-like, black unemployment is low on their list of priorities. It might also be that the recent string of misbehaviors of long-serving black congressmen left them with other things on their mind than complaining loudly about the lack of perspectives for black youth. And, finally, the last comment seemed justified, too - illegal immigrants have competed successfully with blacks for jobs, and irritating the hispanic base would probaly have more negative consequences for Democrats than neglecting a black base that isn't wooed by any other political force.
written by Matt, October 11, 2010 10:30
As Bob Somerby says, "the liberal world gave up on black kids a long time ago."
...10% increase in minimum wage, anybody?
written by pete, October 11, 2010 1:44
Duh...worst recession since the depression, deflation, etc., a 10% pay cut for many state workers...and TA DA! A 10% increase in the minimum wage, most likely the starting wage for black teens. Hmm...should we connect the dots? Now, lets force them to pony up $5,000 for health insurance too. Great plan.
written by BOXER, October 12, 2010 7:33
The Black, brown and red people need to raise up their hands, armed if possible. Make a big mess, then you'll see some changes made. Not before.
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About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.