Friday, June 21, 2024

A snapshot of how Black Americans are fairing in Biden’s economy

This month, President Joe Biden and his administration have been touring the country to make the case that his economic agenda — coined Bidenomics — is working for everyone. Following the most recent economic report and jobs numbers, it may be difficult to assess the state of the economy for Black Americans.

Despite the Black unemployment rate reaching its lowest level in United States history in April at 4.7%, last week, the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics reported that rate spiked to 6% in June.

The jump in unemployment for Black Americans raised questions as to whether the economy is as strong as the Biden-Harris White House is touting. Economic data shows that when an economy is on the upswing, Black workers are the first to be hired. But when an economy weakens, they are the first to be fired or laid off. 

Job seekers wait in line at Kennedy-King College to attend a job fair hosted by the city of Chicago on November 9, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

When theGrio asked whether the administration was concerned about the latter prospect, Joelle Gamble, deputy director of the White House National Economic Council, said the data is less worrisome when peeling back the layers.

“This data is particularly volatile, so it’s most useful to measure it on a quarterly basis,” Gamble said during a White House press call last week. The former chief economist for the U.S. Department of Labor said she has “looked at this survey data fairly closely.”

The White House official said it’s better to compare job numbers on a quarterly basis versus month-to-month.

“That smooths out noise,” Gamble said.

On a three-month quarterly average, the Biden economist said the jobless rate in the second quarter was tied with the previous quarter.

“That’s an apples-to-apples comparison for the lowest on record,” she noted. 

While the White House is closely paying attention to this figure, Gamble said it can “jump around.” However, she emphasized that reducing inequality and investing in Black communities and others that have been left behind is a “top priority” for the president. 

U.S. President Joe Biden (R) delivers remarks with Vice President Kamala Harris on the day tens of millions of parents will get their first monthly Child Tax Credit relief payments in the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on July 15, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

During the same press call, Isabel Guzman, administrator of the Small Business Administration, said that another way the Biden-Harris administration is looking to boost employment opportunities for Black workers is by providing as much support to Black business owners as possible. 

“Focusing on ensuring that our Black founders have access to capital [and] have access to revenue growth opportunities and contracts really helps them create more employment,” Guzman said.

She added, “We know that they over-index in hiring folks in the Black community, and so ensuring that our Black entrepreneurs or founders continue to create jobs is important to the administration.” 

Harry Holzer, a senior fellow in economic studies at the Brookings Institution, told theGrio that there is “good news” in the data for Black workers as wages in the last three years have “more than kept up with inflation.”

“Even though inflation has been pretty high, wage growth has been even higher,” Holzer said. 

Wage growth was reported highest in low-wage occupations, such as leisure and hospitality and some parts of retail. Holzer explained that employers “simply can’t get workers to work at really low wages, so they feel like they have to offer workers more to try to entice them back.”

The economic researcher warned that chances of employment loss increase if wages hit a certain peak.

“That could hit Black workers more than white workers,” he said.

However, with gradual and moderate increases in the minimum wage, for example, Holzer said employment losses are “pretty minimal.”

There is also some modest good news as it relates to the cost of living for Black Americans and all Americans, based on the latest inflation numbers. According to the consumer price index, inflation fell to its lowest annual rate in more than two years in June.

A customer shops in a Walmart store during Black Friday on November 26, 2021 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

Gamble noted that some products, such as everyday grocery times like eggs, have declined in price. She emphasized that the administration still has more progress to make on bringing prices down. However, she highlighted some of the White House’s wins as it relates to Biden’s economic agenda, including provisions secured under the Inflation Reduction Act.

“He already beat Big Pharma in trying to lower prescription drug costs and cap insulin for Medicare recipients at $35 a month,” said Gamble, who noted that Biden is also cracking down hidden fees like overdraft fees for bounced checks, which she claimed could save consumers up to $5 billion a year. 

She added that the Biden-Harris administration is also investing in clean energy to reduce overall energy costs. 

The president “[recognizes] how important being able to get from home to work can be not just for getting to your job but also in terms of your budget,” Gamble said.

Following last week’s inflation report, Biden said it was a sign of “Bidenomics in action.”

“Our progress creating jobs while lowering costs for families is no accident,” the president said. 

“I ran for office to grow the economy from the middle out and bottom up, not the top down,” he added. “That’s exactly what we’re doing.”

Gerren Keith Gaynor

Gerren Keith Gaynor is a White House Correspondent and the Managing Editor of Politics at theGrio. He is based in Washington, D.C.

TheGrio is FREE on your TV via Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Roku and Android TV. Also, please download theGrio mobile apps today! 


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