Unemployment rate increases for black and Latino populations

The unemployment rate for blacks rose to 16.5 percent from 15.8 percent compared to February, even after the country gained 162,000 jobs in March, the Labor Department said. Hispanics also showed a slight increase from 12.4 percent to 12.6 percent, Aaron Glatnz reported for the Los Angeles Watts Times.

But for whites, the unemployment rate held steady at 8.8 percent and went down for Asians from 8.4 percent to 7.5 percent.

Peter Edelman, a former Clinton administration official who directs the Center on Poverty, Inequality and Public Policy at Georgetown University, told Glatnz the figures disappointed him.

“While some white people got jobs, some black people and Latinos actually fell behind more,” Edelman said.

Glatnz also reported that Seth Wessler, a researcher at the Applied Research Center in Oakland, said one of the biggest factors contributing to inequity is the cuts to public transportation.

“If the bus line you depend on is cut, it is impossible to look for a job or even hold onto the one you have,” Wessler said. “We know that people of color are much more likely to depend on public transportation.”

But Edelman believes a large factor in the job gap is the type of work available.

“The jobs that we project over the next decade that are reasonably well paying involve a degree of skills and a degree of preparation, and people of color have disparate educational attainment,” Edelman said.

President Barack Obama’s recognition of this gap yielded a $10 billion investment in community colleges. But during the reconciliation process between the House and Senate, the amount dropped to about $2 billion.

Heidi Shierholtz, a labor economist at the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, said minority communities will probably see an increase in jobs in the coming months; the Census Bureau will hire 700,000 people who will help count the country’s population. But once those jobs are gone in the fall, Shierholtz believes the unemployment rate will increase again.

“I don’t think we’ve turned the corner, and we will not turn the corner until early next year,” Shierholtz said.