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2.7%  Q1 GDP    4.57%  avg. 30-year mortgage     9.5%  Unemployment

Black teen unemployment rises to nearly 50 percent

Black teen unemployment in November hit a near-record high of 49.4 percent.

The November U.S. unemployment numbers came out on Friday, showing the overall official unemployment rate dropped to 10 percent, from 10.2 percent in October. The numbers come from the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics.

As I do each month, I took at look at a truer measure of U.S. unemployment, which counts everyone who should be working full-time but is not, including those who can only find part-time work and those who have grown so discouraged, they have given up looking for work. That number was 17.2 percent in November, down from a recent record-high 17.5 percent in October. Click here to read my entire posting from last Friday.

Today, I'm going to unpack the unemployment data a bit more, focusing first on the U.S. population with the highest jobless rate: black teens.

In November, the unemployment rate among black Americans aged 16 to 19 hit 49.4 percent, up significantly from 41.3 percent in October.

Amazingly, that's not the record high, at least going back to 1972, when the BLS began keeping the records on black teen unemployment.

The record for black teen unemployment came in August 1983, when the rate hit 52.1 percent. That was the period of worst U.S. recession prior to the one that just ended. In August 1983, the overall official U.S. unemployment rate was 9.5 percent.

The unemployment for all black Americans was 15.6 percent in November, down from 15.7 percent, tracking -- though still higher than -- the rate for all Americans.

Among black men 20 years and older, the unemployment rate in November was 16.9 percent, down from 17.1 percent.

Among black women 20 years and older, the rate in November was 11.7 percent, down sharply from 12.4 percent in October.

The sudden rise in black teen unemployment from October to November of this year comes as the overall U.S. unemployment rate is falling. The unemployment rate is often considered a "lagging indicator" of economic health. We know that unemployment has continued to rise for months, or even quarters, after each previous recession has ended.

But it turns out that segments within the overall unemployment rate -- such as black teen unemployment -- lag even further.

-- Frank Ahrens
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By Frank Ahrens  |  December 7, 2009; 10:59 AM ET
Categories:  The Ticker  | Tags: black teens, unemployment  
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