African-American teen unemployment reaches 49.4 %


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As health-care reform continues to grab headlines, employment data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics demonstrates that unemployment is still a primary issue for over 15 million Americans looking for work.
The unemployment rate continued in the double digits, falling slightly this month to 10 percent. But among African-Americans teens, the situation remains troubling. Their unemployment rate rose to 49.4 percent – an increase of more than 50 percent from 2008, and nearly 5 times the national average.
Young African-American males have been hardest hit, with unemployment rising to 57 percent, their highest jobless rate on record.
In response to our nation’s continued high unemployment, President Obama held a “job summit,” to brainstorm ideas for getting Americans back to work.
Left unmentioned are the harmful effects that a government-mandated minimum-wage increase – the most recent of which came in July this year – has had on the entry-level workforce.
“Instead of helping families, Congress has made it more difficult for employers in a weak economy to hire and train low-skilled workers who rely on entry-level jobs to improve their employment skills,” said Kristen Lopez Eastlick, Senior Research Analyst at the Employment Policies Institute.
Decades of research predicted there would be an increase in job loss following a minimum wage hike, particularly among the vulnerable workforce who lack options. Recent research out of the University of California found that a 10 percent increase in the minimum wage leads to an estimated 8.5 percent drop in employment among young black or Hispanic males. This study echoes many others from leading university economists.
“An unintended consequence of the federal minimum wage hike is that marginally skilled employees are priced out of the workforce,” continued Eastlick. “Based on this month’s unemployment data, it’s teens – especially minority teens – who are getting hit the hardest.”

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