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Low black unemployment doesn’t show the whole picture: Urban League CEO Marc Morial

  • The latest black unemployment rate does not paint a complete picture of African-Americans' economic situation, says Marc Morial, CEO of the National Urban League.
  • The black unemployment rate is twice as high as the white unemployment rate.
  • "Let's look at this in context, not look at one number and say, 'Ok, good. Let's celebrate,'' Morial says.

The latest black unemployment rate, though near its historic low, does not paint a complete picture of African-Americans' economic situation, said Marc Morial, president and chief executive officer at the National Urban League.

"The black unemployment rate is still twice as high as the white unemployment rate," Morial said Friday on CNBC's "Power Lunch."

"Let's look at this in context, not look at one number and say, 'Ok, good. Let's celebrate,'" he said.

Friday's March jobs report showed a black unemployment rate of 6.9 percent, the same level as in February. The March white unemployment rate is 3.6 percent, and the overall unemployment rate remains at a 17-year low of 4.1 percent.

Morial, who served as mayor of New Orleans from 1994 to 2002, said the black homeownership rate and wealth gap between white and black Americans "are as bad as they've been in 40 years."

In 2017's fourth quarter, the black homeownership rate was 42.1 percent, compared with 72.7 percent among whites, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

"So you can't look at the unemployment rate and say that's a picture of the economy in black America," Morial said.

The black unemployment rate dropped to 6.8 percent in December 2017, the lowest it's been since 1972, before increasing the following month. The white unemployment rate in the same month was 3.7 percent.

While President Donald Trump has taken credit for the low black unemployment rate, Morial pointed out that under former President Barack Obama, the black unemployment rate fell from 16 percent to 8 percent.

Ron Christie, founder and president at Christie Strategies, told "Power Lunch" he sees the falling black unemployment rate as a good sign.

"[It is] progress that has been moving for years in the right direction," said Christie, who served as a special assistant under President George W. Bush.

BET founder Robert Johnson, the nation's first black billionaire, agreed "something is going right."

"When you look at African-American unemployment, ... you've never had African-American unemployment this low and the spread between African-Americans and whites narrowing," Johnson said Friday on CNBC's "Squawk Box." Johnson said he has known Trump for years and once received a job offer from him.

The U.S. Department of Labor began reporting black unemployment rates in 1972. In that time, the rate of black unemployment had never fallen below 7 percent.

"I'm not displeased that the unemployment rate is down to where it is," Morial said. "But what I'm saying is, it is still twice as high as the white rate."