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Labor Market Discrimination Still Looms as Unemployment Rate Remains Steady



November 4, 2016


Chelsea Whittington, Sr. External Affairs Manager
(773) 451-3524

Labor Market Discrimination Still Looms as Unemployment Rate Remains Steady

CHICAGO, IL. – November 4, 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) October 2016 jobs report:


“As we enter the holiday season, the economy offers a bright outlook as the October national unemployment rate remains steady at 4.9%.  However, the holiday season won’t be as cheery for the thousands of African-American adults and youth in Chicago who are unemployed or underemployed.

At the close of 2016, researchers are consistently finding that there is still a significantly high amount of Blacks facing labor market discrimination. Though mostly covert and systemic, this practice prevents skilled, able-bodied workers from obtaining certain positions, promotions and pay levels due to their race and ethnicity.

In my role as Workforce Development Director at the Chicago Urban League, I often interact with clients of color, who frequently share experiences of discrimination in either the hiring process or the workplace. One of my acquaintances, “Julia,” is a dedicated employee who always goes the extra mile and boasts an impeccable work record. Recently, her efforts to move up in the organization where she works were thwarted when she was passed up for a role that her superiors knew she was qualified for. Time and again, she clearly demonstrated that she was competent and qualified to perform her role and beyond.  Instead, a Caucasian person was brought in from the outside.  Ironically, Julia ended up having to train her new manager, who still depends on her when answers are needed.

Julia is the only African-American woman in the office. She has the technical and leadership experience, the credentials and skills needed to continue to be effective in a higher role. The only problem is how can she prove the discrimination she continues to experience? It is easier said than done, and unfortunately, this happens to African Americans and other minorities on a daily basis.  A 2015 study in the Harvard Business Review found that qualified, college-educated Black women are constantly being held back from management.

While there are many who attempt to take measures to expose discrimination in the workplace, there are countless more that fear retribution or even dismissal if they speak up.  Fortunately, the Chicago Urban League continues its mission to provide job readiness training, placement and advocacy to ensure that more African Americans are selected and promoted in positions where their skills match the roles. However, we can’t do this alone.

Like everyone else, we just want to work and support our families. When will race stop being an issue?”


To schedule an interview with Mr. Wells, please email

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.