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Background: The unemployment rate of black Americans has been an ongoing challenge for the black community, policymakers and presidents since the government began tracking unemployment data. The rate of unemployment among black men and women has been practically double the unemployment rate for white Americans since records started being kept on the subject in 1972.
But the numbers have been particularly dismal in recent years. In 2007, when the latest recession began, unemployment among black Americans was 7.9 percent, compared with 4.2 percent for white Americans. In the years that have followed, the unemployment rate for black Americans has risen faster than the rate for white Americans or Latinos.
First-term accomplishments: In January 2009, the month President Obama took office, the unemployment rate for black Americans was 12.7 percent, compared with 7.1 percent for whites. By August 2011, the government's own data confirmed that the unemployment rate for black Americans had reached its highest levels since 1984: 16.7 percent. It has since fallen but was still at 14 percent in December 2012.
In an interview with The Root, then-Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) had this to say about the rate of unemployment among black Americans during our first black president's first term: "Look, as the chair of the Black Caucus, I've got to tell you, we are always hesitant to criticize the president. With 14 percent [black] unemployment [pdf], if we had a white president, we'd be marching around the White House."
Source: The Root | Keli Goff