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Economy

'Full Employment' Has Not Reached Black America

Economists are hailing the promise of a new national statistic. But the declaration belies the reality for black and brown people across our largest cities.
Jobseekers wait in line for the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. career fair in New York, in April 2012.
Jobseekers wait in line for the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. career fair in New York, in April 2012. Lucas Jackson/AP

The new unemployment numbers are out and despite a significant slowdown in hiring in August, the U.S. is nearing a state of “full employment.” After reaching a 16-year record low unemployment rate of 4.3 percent, we moved up a tenth of a percent. If you live in certain cities and if you’re black you probably missed the good news. Nevertheless, there’s an emergent discourse around our below-5 percent unemployment rate, which economists deem as full employment.

A recent Reuters article citing a sharp decline in home sales offered a caveat: “The housing market remains underpinned by a strong labor market, which is near full employment.” A CNBC article quoted a Goldman Sachs economist as saying the job market is doing so well it could "overshoot" full employment. If you heard the term but felt removed from the conversation, don’t worry.