Black unemployment rate in August is cautiously good news as Biden touts strong economy

President Joe Biden used the August jobs report to boast the strength of the U.S. economy, saying, "We have the strongest economy in the world."

The latest jobs report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that the Black unemployment rate fell slightly in August, suggesting good news for Black workers and the overall economy. However, economists tell theGrio the latest report is cautiously optimistic.

People wait in line to attend a job fair for employment with SoFi Stadium and Los Angeles International Airport employers, at SoFi Stadium on Sept. 9, 2021, in Inglewood, California. (Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)

The jobless rate for Black Americans in August stood at 5.3%, barely a change from the July rate of 5.8% but lower than the unemployment rate for Blacks a year ago (6.4%). The national rate slightly rose to 3.8%, which the White House and economists noted isn’t necessarily bad news since most of the increase was a result of more Americans joining the labor force participation and actively looking for work.

President Joe Biden used the August jobs report on Friday to boast the strength of the U.S. economy, including the fact that the unemployment rate remained below 4% for 19 straight months. 

While delivering remarks at the White House Rose Garden, the president also noted that since taking office, “we’ve seen record lows in unemployment for African Americans, Hispanic workers…veterans, [and] workers without high school diplomas.”

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks about the August U.S. Jobs and Employment report in the Rose Garden at the White House on Sept. 1, 2023, in Washington, D.C. The U.S. added 187,000 jobs in August. (Photo by Anna Rose Layden/Getty Images)

The Black unemployment rate has been relatively low compared to its historical levels, which is something that is welcomed by economists. However, given interest rate hikes instituted by the Federal Reserve, there is concern that the economy is cooling to the point that unemployment could rise again for Black Americans.

“The slight decline in unemployment is encouraging,” Andre Perry, economic researcher and senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, told theGrio. Perry added, “But we are starting to see some stabilization – a new baseline that is lower than pre-pandemic levels.” 

Harry Holzer, professor of public policy at Georgetown University and senior fellow in economics studies at Brookings, told theGrio, “I think the labor market is still strong but is clearly slowing. If it slows further, Black unemployment will likely rise.”

Earlier this year, in April, the Biden-Harris administration touted a record-low Black unemployment of 4.7% – the first time it fell under 5% since jobs numbers have been recorded. White House officials previously told theGrio the low unemployment rate for Black Americans was a result of President Biden’s economic policies, also known as Bidenomics. 

Fred Redmond, secretary-treasurer of AFL-CIO, the nation’s largest federation of unions, told theGrio that President Biden has taken steps to reshape the economy to be more equitable for Black Americans. 

“Time and time again, this president stood with working people to tackle the most pressing challenges we face, and he’s trying to create an economy that works for all of us,” Redmond said. “This president understands the inequality in this country, and he’s doing everything he can through his policies.”

U.S. President Joe Biden unveils his economic plan during an event in the lobby of the old post office building on June 28, 2023, in Chicago. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Redmond noted, for example, that through federal funding from laws signed by Biden, like the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and Inflation Reduction Act, most trainees in apprenticeship programs and pre-apprenticeship programs for new jobs being created have been people of color and women.

During his remarks on Friday, the president also highlighted the fact that wages are increasing for workers, and his administration proposed a new rule to extend overtime pay for up to 3.6 million workers across the country. He stated that America has added 13.5 million jobs since he took office and that the U.S. has the lowest inflation rate among world economies.

“Today, we have the strongest economy in the world,” said Biden. “We continue to grow our economy from the middle out [and] the bottom up in good paying jobs, more breathing room for families and American workers.”

Gerren Keith Gaynor

Gerren Keith Gaynor is a White House Correspondent and the Managing Editor of Politics at theGrio. He is based in Washington, D.C.

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