Unemployment climbed to 9.7 percent in the month of August, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The new figures are the country’s highest since 1983.
For African-Americans, unemployment jumped to 15.1 percent in August, up from 14.5 percent in July.
A recent job fair at New York City’s Madison Square Garden attracted thousands of job-seekers, many of them black men of all ages.
“It’s humbling,” said entrepreneur Brendan Allen, who until recently was able to support himself by “maneuvering stocks.”
Allen was struck by the number of black men present at the fair.
He said he tries to find positives out of what has been a tough time for him personally.
“I give a clap to all black men out here looking for work,” Allen said. “The fact that I know [black men] are here between the ages of 20 and 55, it’s humbling. It means a lot to a black man to see other black men out here looking for a job.”
Joseph Thompson stood outside of Madison Square Garden six hours before the fair opened.
“It’s been painful to go through this instability,” said Thompson, who is seeking a general accountant position. “But it’s a blessing in a disguise because it’s allowing me to market myself and further my skill sets while I look for work.”
Career advisors present said standing in long lines and signing up on e-mail lists can frustrate job applicants.
”[Looking for jobs] is not an easy process,” said Paul Tieger, author and creator of mypersonaljobcoach.com. “But there are small things you can do, such as looking someone in the eye or doing your research on a company to make yourself standout.”
Some young job hunters found the large crowds to be intimidating.
“I feel like I’m just a needle in a haystack,” said Edward Amo-krah of Jersey City, N.J. “When I saw the hundreds and hundreds of people outside waiting in line, it really gets to your spirit.”
Downsizing cost Amo-krah his job as internal auditer at AIG in 2007.
He has shifted his energies to teaching.
“I feel that teaching is just more rewarding,” Amo-krah said. “I’ve been substituting for about a while now, and I’m thinking this is my next thing.”
This week’s job fair was a rallying point for Amo-krah. He is a veteran of many job fairs in the past year, but his most recent was especially important.
“I do see an aspect of a negative being turned into a positive here,” said Amo-krah, who said he enjoyed networking with other black males in his position. “It feels good to see African-Americans out looking for work and trying to connect with each other.”