Jobless Rate Below 8 Percent

Hazel Trice Edney | 10/10/2012, 11:10 a.m.

The U. S. unemployment rate finally dropped below 8 percent to 7.8 percent (.3 percentage points) last month, giving hope for a slowly recovering economy and a slight boost for the re-election of President Barack Obama. Unemployment in the Black community, which is now 13.4%, also showed slight improvements over the past year.

President Obama, still smarting from criticism of his first debate performance, boasted on the new jobs numbers, but said it's just a start. He called on Congress for help.

"While there's more work to do, America's businesses have added 5.2 million jobs over the past 31 months and the unemployment rate is at the lowest level since the President took office," he said at a campaign event in San Francisco this week. "To keep our country moving forward, Congress should act on the President's plan to keep taxes low for 98 percent of the American people, rather than holding it hostage to give more budget-busting tax cuts to the wealthiest 2 percent."

Though the Black unemployment rate remains extremely high compared to the White unemployment rate which is well below the national average, it also shows signs of recovery when measuring the decrease since last year.

The Black unemployment rate at this time last year was 15.9 percent overall, 16.6 percent for Black men, 13.2 percent for Black women, and 43.6 percent for Black teens. Currently, the rates for African-Americans are 13.4 percent overall (2.5 percent drop from last year); 14.2 percent for Black men (2.4 percent drop from last year); 10.9 percent for Black women (2.3 percent drop from last year); and 36.7 percent for Black teens (6.9 percent drop from last year).

The lowest Black unemployment rate over the past decade was 7.0 in April of 2000 during the Clinton presidential administration.

Comparatively, the White unemployment rate at this time last year was 7.9 percent overall, 7 percent now (.9 percentage point drop); 7.7 percent for White men last year, 6.6 percent now (1.1 percent drop); 7.1 percent for White women last year (.8 percentage point drop), 6.3 percent now, (.8 percentage point drop); and 21.2 percent for White teens last year, the same rate now.

The lowest White unemployment rate over the past decade was 3.4 percent in January of 2000, also during the Clinton administration.

Democrats are applauding the much-needed reduction in the unemployment rate as Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney says it's far too slow.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, in its monthly report Oct. 4, gave additional good news:

"Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 114,000," the BLS reported on its home page at bls.gov. "For the first 8 months of the year, the rate held within a narrow range of 8.1 and 8.3 percent. The number of unemployed persons, at 12.1 million, decreased by 456,000 in September."