Black unemployment in Chicago is third highest in the nation, report finds

July 3, 2012

Niala Boodhoo

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At 19 percent, African-American unemployment in Chicago ranks the third highest in the country, according to a report published this week by the Washington-based Economic Policy Institute.

Between 2010 and 2011, the jobless rate for Chicago's black workers increased 1.7 percent. In contrast, nearby Detroit had similar rates, closer to 18 percent, but with a 7 percent decrease in the black unemployment rate during the same time period.

The report's author, Algernon Austin, said he thinks the better numbers for Detroit's black workers reflects Michigan's economy.

"Recovery might be too strong of a word but we're seeing improved circumstances," Austin said. "It's likely due to the return of the auto industry, and that's reaching in and benefitting black workers."

Niala Boodhoo spoke with Algernon Austin of the Economic Policy Institute on Eight Forty-Eight Tuesday morning.

In contrast, Austin says Chicago's segregation weighs heavily on local African-American jobless rates - especially compared to other metropolitan areas in the report.

"The black population is not completely separate, but more isolated, not simply spatially, but economically and socially," Austin said.

He said that inhibits access to better jobs.

Chicago's high rate of unemployment for African-Americans was superceded only by Las Vegas, which ranked the highest at 22.6 percent and Los Angeles, at 22.1 percent. In general, the jobless rates for all African-Americans in the report were two to three times higher than that of the white population.