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July Unemployment Numbers Unchanged at 4.9%; Voter Participation Will Help Determine Future Stats

8/16/2016, midnight | Updated on 8/16/2016, midnight

July Unemployment Numbers Unchanged at 4.9%; Voter Participation Will Help Determine Future Stats

The Chicago Urban League’s Workforce Development Director Andrew Wells recently issued the following statement in response to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) July 2016 jobs report:

“The July national unemployment rate remained at 4.9 percent. Unfortunately, the story for Chicago’s African American community is also the same with a heightened unemployment rate of more than 18 percent coupled with scarce opportunities for upward movement in the workplace.

Twenty-sixteen is a critical year. We are witnessing one of the most historic, unprecedented and unpredictable Presidential elections on record. ‘We, the people’ get to decide what type of future we want and who best can lead us to where we want to be, particularly as it relates to the job market.

Some may feel like their opinion doesn’t matter, but that’s quite the contrary. It’s critical to be engaged in the democratic process and to unite around issues that matter to us including access to education, social justice and economic opportunities.

Despite blatant racial discrimination in the first half of the 20th century, Blacks experienced Higher labor force participation and had a keen focus on education and skills attainment. In 1954, the unemployment rate for Blacks was 9.9 percent and 5 percent for whites. In the 1960s, important civil rights legislation was passed, protecting citizens against discrimination by race, religion, sex or national origin. Fast forward to the 70’s and 80’s, the socio-economic gap began to widen, and Black unemployment rose exponentially. In the early 1990s, Black unemployment dropped below 10 percent. Entering the 2000s, we saw unemployment rise followed by the Great Recession of 2008. This brief history lesson sheds light on the correlation between the Black unemployment rate and who’s occupying the White House.

Simply put, your vote is your voice, but not voting also sends a powerful message of complacency and consent. It’s critically important that we make our voices heard at the polls. We cannot affect change unless we are part of the process. The 2016 election is our opportunity to define our economic expectations while holding those who are elected accountable. Our future depends on it.”