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Spotlight on Statistics

February 2010

African American History Month, 2010

Audio Script

African American History Month is observed as a way to recall and commemorate the achievements and history of Americans of African descent. Here are some facts from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics that provide an economic snapshot of African Americans in the United States today.

In 2009, there were 17.6 million African Americans in the labor force—accounting for 11 percent of all Americans aged 16 and over who were employed or looking for work. The African American labor force is slightly younger than the total labor force, with 63 percent of African American labor force participants under the age of 45 compared to 58 percent of all labor force participants.

Since 1972, the unemployment rate for African Americans age 16 years and over has been higher than that of the total labor force.  

 In 1992, eighteen percent of the African Americans in the labor force had not graduated from high school.  By 2009, that figure had declined by one-half to 9 percent.  Of note, African Americans in the labor force that had graduated from college increased from 16 percent in 1992 to 24 percent in 2009.

Higher education leads to higher earnings. African Americans graduating with a bachelor’s degree and higher degree earn more than twice as much as those with less than a high school diploma.

Unemployment rates fall as educational attainment increases as well. In 2009, the unemployment rate for African Americans 25 years and over without a high school diploma was over 21 percent, while the jobless rate for high school graduates was  14 percent and those graduating with a bachelor’s degree and higher was  7.3 percent.

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