What is the current unemployment rate for African American youth?

Sanders stated that the “real” unemployment rate for African American youth is more than 50%, even though the official unemployment rate for blacks age 16 to 19 is 25.2%.

Sanders inflated his unemployment numbers for African American Youth.

What Sanders refers to as “real” unemployment actually includes a lot of people who have jobs, plus a lot more who aren’t currently looking for work.

He is referring to one of several “alternative” measures of labor “underutilization” published each month by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The U-6 measure starts with those the BLS officially classifies as unemployed — meaning those who say they have looked for a job at least once in the past four weeks, but don’t have one.

To that is added those “marginally attached” to the labor force, meaning those who say they want work and have looked for a job in the past year, but aren’t currently looking. Also added are those who say they want a full-time job but are forced to work part time because full-time work isn’t available, or their employer has cut back their hours.

It’s true that the U-6 rate was 9.9% in January, which indeed is “close to 10%.” But Sanders fails to mention that the rate has dropped substantially since hitting more than 17% in 2009 and 2010, and is not far above the 8.4% rate that prevailed in January 2007, before the recession. In fact, it’s almost exactly the median rate for all the months since the BLS began publishing the figures in 1994 — which is 9.8%.

As for African American youth, the official unemployment rate for blacks age 16 to 19was 25.2% — half the figure cited by Sanders. The U-6 rate for black teens isn’t readily available on the BLS website, and it could well be more than 50%, as Sanders claims. But even so it would still include many who have part-time jobs, and many more who aren’t actually looking for work.

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