Detroit area’s Black high unemployment rate falls

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    The Detroit metro region fell from the highest Black unemployment rate in the country to fourth among the nation’s largest cities but it remains very high at 18.1 percent, a new issue brief from the Economic Policy Institute finds.

    In 2011, the Black unemployment rate in Detroit was lower than that of Chicago, Los Angeles and Las Vegas — which reached 22.6 percent, a level comparable to the highest overall national rates during the Great Depression. In 2010, Detroit was at the top of the list with 25.6 percent Black unemployment.

    The trend reflects Michigan’s slowly improving unemployment rate. After more than four years with the highest unemployment in the country, Michigan in May was 13th in the country at 8.5 percent (still above the national average of 8.2 percent).

    “This is a mix of good news and bad news. The rescue of the auto industry has had a positive impact on Michigan’s economy, and we’re seeing the evidence in this report,’’ said Gilda Z. Jacobs, president and CEO of the Michigan League for Human Services. “We know that unemployment remains a problem for White, Black and Hispanic workers, and those who have been out of work for many months are still struggling to find work.”

    Part of the reason for the reduction in the unemployment rate, however, is that 40,000 workers in the region left the workforce. And gains in Black employment appear to be primarily in the suburbs rather than in the city of Detroit itself, a review of the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows. In the region as a whole, employment increased by 13,000 jobs between 2010 and 2011, while the city actually lost a small number of jobs during that time.

    “We know that the rate only tells part of the story. It’s good that employment is up, but the drop in the unemployment rate also reflects the fact that many have left the workforce. It’s still very hard for the long-term unemployed to find a job and many workers have become discouraged by the difficulty,’’ Jacobs said.

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