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Unemployment figures released for October

Datwa M. Morales | 11/10/2010, 5 p.m.

The national unemployment rate remained unchanged at 9.6 percent for the month of October, according to a report released last week by the United States Department of Labor. California ranks third highest in the country, behind Nevada and Michigan, with a 12.4 percent unemployment rate. Nationally, 14.8 million Americans are out of work, with 6.2 million job seekers reporting they have been jobless for 27 weeks or more.

While the unemployment rate stagnated, 151,000 new jobs were added, primarily in service-related industries. Retail, health care and hospitality led the job gains, along with temporary positions. Temporary services have added 451,000 jobs in the past 13 months.
President Obama called the report encouraging news, "but not good enough."

"The fact is, an encouraging jobs report doesn't make a difference, if you're still one of the millions of people who are looking for work," the president said.

With a 15.7 percent unemployment rate, African Americans comprise the highest group of unemployed Americans, and estimates are as high as 25 to 30 percent for Black youth, according to Rodney D. Green Ph.D., chairman of the Economics Department at Howard University and director of the school's Center for Urban Progress. "These numbers tend to greatly underestimate the employment distress among African Americans," Green said. He pointed out that the overall unemployment rate does not include part-time workers who want full-time jobs, or discouraged workers, which is how the U.S. Department of Labor describes the 1.2 million people who have given up looking for work, because they believe no jobs are available for them.

"When people drop out of the unemployment race, the overall unemployment rate falls," said Green. "It's a misleading number."

The president is wrapping up a 10-day trip to Asia with stops in India, Indonesia, South Korea and Japan. The Obama Administration sees these countries as key U.S. economic partners, not just for exporting jobs as in the previous administration, but for exporting U.S. products. President Obama has set a goal of doubling the amount of goods the country exports over the next five years.

"It's also absolutely clear that one of the keys to creating jobs is to open markets to American goods made by American workers," said Obama. "For every $1 billion we increase in exports, thousands of jobs are supported here at home."

But Green is doubtful the president's overseas economic stimulus plan will work. The same countries Obama is visiting are also being courted by other major exporting powers such as China and Brazil. "If his goal is successful, it could create more business, which would create more jobs for U.S. companies," he said. "The question is whether that will happen or not."

Don't expect to see a trickle-down effect in the African American community, either, Green said. "I'm not optimistic that his trip will significantly increase jobs for African Americans," he said.