Black Unemployment Rate: Even In Better Economy, African-Americans See Small Gains

By AARON MORRISON, Staff Writer (IBTimes)

Published: March 8,  2015

Cyril Darensbourg has been unemployed for 10 years. As shocking as he knows that sounds to those who don’t know him personally, the 48-year-old native of New Orleans had enjoyed a 15-year career managing restaurants in Chicago and New York, after taking a chance on a dream and ending his third year of studying electricalengineeringinLouisiana. Years of job-application submissions and temporary work here and there has persisted for far too long.Darensbourgis one of close to two million African-Americans in the U.S. whoarecurrentlyunemployed and looking for work.

Across the American economy, the dominant story during the past several months has been a sustained recovery that resuscitated a dormant job market and the accompanying unemployment rate that has plunged below pre-Great Recession levels. But if better days are here for many workers, this feeling is shared to a lesser degree by African-Americans, whose unemployment rate is still considered high and has long been double the rate for whites. Among black working-age people, however, the unemployment rate since February 2014 has dropped more quickly thanamongnonblackworkers.

On the surface, that improvement should signal a triumph, but it is accompanied by an asterisk, given the factthatnonblackworkers’unemployment rates fell much earlier and faster during the recovery. Government data indicate recent job creation has been less beneficial to African-American workers when compared with whites, Asians and Hispanics: Basically, blacks had more ground to make up and their labor-force representation is skewed toward lower-wage industries in which there are higher turnover rates, one study found.

These clear-cut differences mean that for people such as Darensbourg, who have been out of work for periods of several months or several years, other factors exaggerate the length of their unemployment. Many African-Americans find it hard to dismiss completely the role that raceplaysintheirdifficultyfindingwork, even with federal laws making discrimination illegal. Studies have found that even when black applicants possess qualifications that are on par with white applicants, variables as simple as their names or as complex as the breadth of their professional networks can many times hold them back.

“I’ve never felt secure, in my entire adult life working,” said Darensbourg, who is now married with two kids and living with his family in a New York apartment. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001 eliminated his management-level job at a restaurant located within the no-traffic zone, he was forced to look for work in other restaurants, which he said wouldn’t pay him at his previous annual salary of nearly six figures.

“I’ve been in disbelief,” said Darensbourg, a 6-foot-5-inch, 220-pound man who is often told his presence is at worst intimidating and at best unforgettable. During an interview for a job he was certain he would get, he recalled feeling his younger, white, female interviewer was put off by his size and confidence. “Over time, I didn’t know what to do,” he said of the experience.

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