African-American Unemployment Hits a Record Low in December

The jobless rate for African-Americans fell to the lowest level since 1972, when the government first began tracking data
January 10, 2018 Updated: January 10, 2018

The jobless rate for African-Americans declined to 6.8 percent nationally in December.

After the financial crisis of 2008, the African-American unemployment rate surged, reaching 16.8 percent in 2010. It has gradually declined since then.

Among states, the unemployment rate was lowest in Tennessee and highest in Illinois during the third quarter of 2017, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

“African-American unemployment is the lowest it’s ever been in the history of our records,” President Donald Trump said during a speech at the 99th annual convention of the American Farm Bureau Federation in Tennessee.

Economists disagree over who is responsible for the drop in the unemployment rate for African-Americans. Some argue that the fall has nothing to do with Trump’s policies but is more related to President Barack Obama’s tenure. Meanwhile, others praise Trump’s deregulation efforts.

Horace Cooper, an adjunct fellow with the National Center for Public Policy Research, told Newsweek magazine that job opportunities for African-Americans were growing in the trade industry thanks to regulatory rollbacks.

The U.S. nonfarm payrolls rose by 148,000 in December, and the economy added 2.1 million jobs in 2017. Unemployment in December stayed at 4.1 percent, the lowest level in 17 years.

Hiring was strong last year in the health care (+300,000), food services (+249,000), construction (+210,000), and manufacturing (+196,000) sectors.

Meanwhile, average hourly earnings rose by 9 cents to $26.63 in December. Over 2017, average hourly earnings rose by 65 cents, or 2.5 percent.

Economists forecast that the overall unemployment rate could fall to 3.5 percent this year, which would be the lowest since the late 1960s. That could potentially lead to higher wage growth by the end of this year.

U.S. job openings surged to record high levels last year, as companies had trouble finding suitable workers due to a growing skills gap.

By the end of November last year, there were nearly 6 million vacant jobs that American workers were unable to fill. Meanwhile, 6.6 million unemployed Americans were looking for jobs, and the labor force participation rate was 63 percent in December.

According to a new Gallup survey, Americans’ optimism about finding a quality job surged last year, reaching the highest level in 17 years. The survey found the percentage of Americans who believe 2017 was a good year to find a quality job rose to 56 percent. African-Americans, however, were less positive about the availability of quality jobs, with 48 percent saying 2017 was a good year.

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