June jobs report: Unemployment rate stays at 8.2 percent, but increases for blacks

Overall unemployment remained at 8.2 percent in June, but the jobless rate for African-Americans increased by almost a point to 14.4 percent, the Department of Labor announced Friday in its monthly employment report.

The unemployment rate of 8.2 percent suggests the economic surge that seemed to be happening earlier in the year has largely stalled. In the first three months of the year, the economy grew by an average of more than 200,000 jobs a month, compared to less than half that from April-June.

At the same time, the picture is much better than a year ago, when the jobless rate was 9.1 percent.

The increase in the black jobless rate will raise concerns, because other demographic groups did not show similar surges in unemployment. Unemployment among whites is 7.4 percent and 11.0 percent among Hispanics.

Black unemployment was 13.6 percent in May. The black jobless rate is traditionally double that of the rate among whites, but the rate in the last three years has been historically high.

“There are some fluctuations in the employment statistics for blacks, but essentially for blacks as well as the rest of the country, the economy is in a holding pattern,” said Algeron Austin, director of the Race, Ethnicity and the Economy program at the Washington-based Economic Policy Institute. “We haven’t seen any real significant change for the first half of the year.”

Politically, the report presents a challenge for President Obama, who is on a two-day campaign bus tour of Ohio and Pennsylvania. No modern president has won reelection with a jobless rate higher than 7.4 percent, but it is increasingly unlikely the unemployment  will dip below that number by November.

Republicans in Congress said the report showed the president’s policies aren’t working.

“This crawling pace is not enough to get the millions of Americans who are unemployed back to work or provide long-term growth. We’ve seen month after month of dismal jobs numbers,” said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.”

White House officials noted that economic growth is continuing, even as they acknowledged that challenges remain.

“The economy has now added private sector jobs for 28 straight months, for a total of 4.4 million payroll jobs during that period. Employment is growing but it is not growing fast enough given the jobs deficit caused by the deep recession,” said Alan Krueger, chairman of the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers.

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