The latest tizzy over the release of the new job numbers have almost exclusively focused on the smaller than projected jobs growth. Yes, the economy added only126,000 jobs rather than the roughly 250,000 that had been expected last month. And yes, this drop off was decidedly counter to what has now become the new normal as it relates to job creation during our economic recovery. But what has not raised an eyebrow is the disturbing and continuing trend of rising unemployment among Black women.
The fact of the matter is, despite slower than expected jobs growth, the overall unemployment rate remained steady, and some key demographic groups — such as White men, Black men and Latinos — experienced continued unemployment declines. Black women, however, have suffered their own distinct disturbing trend.
As was detailed in the recently released report, “The State of Black Women in America, 2015”, Black women have uniquely suffered throughout the entire recovery period. In fact, in the initial years of the economy’s bounce back, Black women were routinely pushed out of jobs as others made their way back into the nation’s economy. The tendency was so great, that more Black women lost jobs in the first two years of the recovery, than was the case during the entire Great Recession itself.
More recently, as the economy has rebounded, others have benefited, but for Black women… not so much. Even with the recently reported lower than expected jobs growth, overall, the nation still stands at a seven year low in unemployment. And while Black men continue to suffer disproportionately high unemployment rates, their numbers have consistently declined for months now. So much so, that at this rate, they will easily dip into the single digits by the time of the release of next month’s report.
In contrast, Black women are struggling. March makes the third month in a row in which Black women’s unemployment has risen; this time, landing them at 9.2 percent. With this trend now firmly established, it’s not hard to imagine a future in which the employment fate of Black women will switch places with that of Black men. If nothing is done to address this disturbing development, just as Black men’s unemployment finally dips into the single digits, Black women may very well eventually pierce the double digit unemployment mark themselves.
So what’s going on with Black women? The issue is in no way an indicator of an aversion to work. Black women have historically, and continue to be the most likely women in America to work outside the home. The real problem is the kind of jobs that are and are not being created as part of the nation’s recovery. Yes, over the last five years, we’ve seen more than 12 million jobs created throughout the nation. The problem is, nearly all of these jobs have been concentrated in the private sector. Women and people of color, but especially Black women have historically been concentrated in the public sector labor force. And, as encouraging as the overall jobs growth numbers are, the reality is that public sector jobs have been under attack in America for years. It appears Black women have been the biggest casualty of this assault.
If we really want to grow an economy for all, we can’t afford to buy into the myth that only private sector jobs matter. We need an increased commitment and improved outcomes as it relates to growing and strengthening the public sector labor force because at the end of the day, not only do Black women’s lives matter, their jobs matter too.