April jobs report shows racial disparities in unemployment rates continue

Key Points
  • The April jobs report showed an 18-year-low unemployment rate of 3.9 percent. Meanwhile, the African-American unemployment rate was nearly double the national average at 6.6 percent.
  • Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League, says the problem is systemic and long-term.
  • Morial pointed out that inequalities exist in income, housing and technology.
We need to re-skill our workforce: Morial
We need to re-skill our workforce: Morial

Inequalities in unemployment levels are long-term and systemic, Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League, told CNBC.

"There's still implicit and explicit bias in the labor market," Morial said on "Power Lunch" Friday.

Earlier that day, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released the April jobs report, showing an unemployment rate of 3.9 percent. The number marked an 18-year low.

Among African-Americans the unemployment rate fell to 6.6 percent, one of the lowest levels since 1972.

But in the same month, the unemployment rate was 2.7 percent for Asian-Americans, 3.6 percent for whites and 4.8 percent for Hispanics.

"This is shocking," Morial said.

Morial, who served as the mayor of New Orleans from 1992 to 1998, also pointed out that nearly two-thirds of all wealth is intergenerational.

The median household income, he said, is lowest among African-Americans. In 2018, the median income for black Americans is $38,555, compared with $63,155 in white families. Hispanic households have a median income of $46,882.

Morial also pointed out the gap in employment among African-Americans in the technology sector. Black Americans make up just 6.6 percent of the workforce in U.S. technology companies.

The 2016 Equal Employment Opportunity report, filed by Google, Facebook and Twitter, showed that in the combined workforce of 41,000 employees, only 1.8 percent, or 758 employees, were black.

Facebook declined to comment. A Google representative noted by email that the most recent diversity report showed 2 percent of "Googlers" are black. A Twitter representative referred to the company's diversity report blog, which states that the company hopes to have a workforce of at least 5 percent African-Americans by 2019.

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

"African-American wealth did decline with the Great Recession and has not recovered, mainly because so much of African-American wealth was tied up into equity in people's homes," Morial said.

The answer, he said, lies in teaching the next generation of workers new skills that will allow them to compete.

"What our state of Black American reports shows with the changing landscape due to the digital and technology economy [is that] jobs are going to disappear, types of jobs are going to disappear, but new jobs are going to emerge," Morial said.

"We've got to make sure this increasingly diverse workforce of tomorrow is prepared for the jobs that are going to emerge from this transformation that we're seeing that is touching every aspect of our lives," he said.