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April 1, 2016


Chelsea Whittington, External Affairs Manager

(773) 451-3524


March Jobs Recovery Report is a Call for Stronger Action

CHICAGO, Il. – April 1, 2016 –The Chicago Urban League’s Workforce Development Director Andrew Wells today issued the following statement in response to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) March 2016 jobs report.

“The American jobs market is holding steady for the third month this year. Employers added 215,000 jobs in March, and the current unemployment rate will close out the first quarter at 5%, the lowest it’s been since 2008. These are promising trends, leaving some to believe that the worst is over.  However, this jobs recovery is not reflective of employment shortages that continue to persist for minorities, especially in Chicago.

A recently released report by the Great Cities Institute found that nearly half of young Black men in Chicago are unemployed.  In fact, the unemployment rate for Chicago as a whole is gradually moving in the opposite direction of the national rate, increasing from 5.4% in September 2015 to 6.1% in January. This is primarily because minority job-seekers have to contend with something that is not computed in the Bureau of Labor Statistics monthly jobs report: systemic racism.

One might argue that the unemployment disparity is largely due to the difference in educational levels between Blacks and whites. However, research by the Economic Policy Institute demonstrates that Blacks, who are on the same educational level as their white counterparts, are nearly twice as likely to be unemployed.  Even those who have succeeded in securing viable employment have likely experienced subtler forms of job discrimination, such as lower wages, limited advancement opportunities or poor work environment.

As we continue to examine the unemployment landscape closely, it becomes clear that the disparity is an amalgamation of the aforementioned barriers, and other socioeconomic factors, all rooted in systemic structural inequities.

Few have felt the anguish of thwarted aspiration in Chicago so acutely as Black and Hispanic men, women and teens. No one, possessing the credentials and capability, should be systematically overlooked because of the color of their skin or their zip code. A lack of access to training and apprenticeships should not rob people of the right to pursue their ambitions.

A robust public-private sector plan done with urgency to create jobs in an equitable manner can start Chicago on the path to ensuring all its residents have an opportunity to thrive.”

About the Chicago Urban League

Established in 1916, the Chicago Urban League works for economic, educational and social progress for African Americans and promotes strong sustainable communities through advocacy, collaboration and innovation. For more information, visit Find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.