CLASP Report Highlights the Challenge of Young Black Male Unemployment, Offers Policies, Practices to Address Deep-Seated Problem

Oct 23, 2013

By Kisha Bird

In the current labor market, many youth and young adults are struggling to find work.  Far too many are either unemployed or working in low-wage jobs with minimal hours, unable to take care of themselves and their families.  The long-term employment mobility and earnings of youth and young adults will be severely impacted without early work experience and adequate participation in the labor market during these critical years.  Yesterday’s jobs report from the U.S. Department of Labor underscores that the entire labor market is still struggling to recover. But the challenges for black men are particularly stark; the unemployment rate for black men ages 16 and older is 15 percent, more than twice the national average.  The rate is even higher for black men ages 20 to 24 (25.8 percent) and teens (40.4 percent).

Advocates and researchers have highlighted the issue of unemployment among youth and young adults for over a decade—even before the Great Recession.  Sadly, for some population groups, the struggle has far older roots.  Unemployment among young black men is historically much higher than their white counterparts.  Since 1972, the rate of employment for black males ages 20 to 24 has dropped by 23 percent, with just over half of black males in this age group currently attached to the labor market.  For black male teens, work opportunities are nearly nonexistent.   One in five black males ages 16 to 19 are employed—down from 31.4 percent in 1972.

In Feel the Heat: the Unrelenting Challenge of Young Black Male Unemployment, a new CLASP report authored by Linda Harris, we propose several strategies to help turn the tide for the thousands of young black men who are under- and unemployed.  The report also analyzes employment trends and suggests two critical influences that are central contributors to black male unemployment: low education attainment and over-representation in the criminal justice system. 

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