98 Percent of Networks' Jobs Stories Ignore High Black Unemployment

There is a jobs crisis in the U.S. that is going virtually unnoticed by the broadcast networks. The unemployment rate for African Americans towers over the national average, upsetting conservatives and liberals.

In spite of bipartisan outrage, the three broadcast networks gave just 10 seconds combined to the black unemployment rate around the monthly jobs reports in the past year. Liberal Rev. Jesse Jackson was one of many frustrated people. He has complained that “the media [is] dismissing it as not important.”

Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data revealed a severe jobs crisis for African-Americans even in recent months. While the national unemployment rate for all races was 6.7 percent in February 2014, the black unemployment rate was almost twice that at 12 percent. There is little doubt that the March jobs report which will be released April 4 will continue to show a devastating gap between the two rates.

The Media Research Center’s Business and Media Institute looked at broadcast network news coverage during the week surrounding the monthly release of jobs data going back for a year. BMI found that the subject of high black unemployment was completely ignored by 98 percent of jobs stories.

Of the 145 jobs-related stories during those weeks, the networks only mentioned the disproportionately high black unemployment rate in two stories. Both were on NBC and spent a combined total of 10 seconds on the “discouraging” black unemployment rate in reports about the overall jobs situation. ABC and CBS completely ignored black unemployment during this period, although they aired 100 stories about jobs.

Jackson and other liberals have expressed outrage about the high unemployment rate. Conservatives have too. Conservative economist Dr. Thomas Sowell has written repeatedly about this crisis, which he blamed on minimum wage laws, calling them a “government-created disaster for minority young people.”

The unemployment crisis is even worse for youth. About fifty percent more black teens are unemployed than the average teen according to the BSL. The unemployment rate for African-American teens is 31.5 percent compared to the national average of 21.4 percent.

This unemployment crisis is the worst it has been in more than three decades. Left-wing economist Dean Baker wrote on Jan. 10, 2014, that the number of African-Americans either employed or searching for a job was “the lowest rate since December of 1977.”

Left and Right Agree, Black Unemployment Is ‘Untold Story’

Both liberals and conservatives have denounced the African-American unemployment problem.

Writing for The Huffington Post in July 2013, Professor Clarence B. Jones, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s personal lawyer, decried “the real largely untold story about our economy” which is “the magnitude of unemployment among African-American youth.”

The Huffington Post’s own Peter Goodman warned way back as January 2011 that high rates of African-American unemployment “ought to trigger national alarm.” He quoted Rev. Jesse Jackson saying, “Can you imagine any other group at that level of unemployment and the media dismissing it as not important?”

The networks’ lack of coverage is even more troubling, since conservatives and liberals worry that two of President Barack Obama’s current policy initiatives could worsen the problem. Liberals were concerned about immigration reform, while conservatives continue to warn that minimum wage laws hurt minority youth.

Sowell warned in a March 25, 2014, column that “Minimum wage laws are another government-created disaster for minority young people.” Sowell explained that minimum wage laws kill jobs frequently worked by minority youth, stripping their resumes of useful job experience.

Dr. Walter Williams, another conservative economist, made similar arguments in an April 10, 2013, column “Black Unemployment.” Williams argued that labor unions once promoted minimum wage laws “for the express purposes of excluding blacks from government-financed or –assisted construction projects.” He claimed that today minimum wage “makes hiring low-skilled workers a losing economic proposition,” which disproportionately hurts African-American youth.

Clarence Jones, writing at the liberal Huffington Post blog, worried about immigration reform and argued it was hurting African-American employment opportunities. Specifically, Jones criticized Obama for “promot[ing] and sponsor[ing] a domestic political agenda that will facilitate one of the highest rates of unemployment in the African-American community.”

Jones said that African-American unemployment was being “thrown under the bus” in order “to satisfy the demands of the business community.”

Methodology: The Media Research Center’s Business and Media Institute examined broadcast network news coverage in the weeks surrounding each monthly Bureau of Labor Statistics “Employment Situation” news release. BMI looked at coverage from the Monday before through the Sunday after each release and analyzed network morning and evening news show coverage of jobs or employment. Each of these stories was examined for any discussion of African-Americans in the job market or employment statistics.

Sean Long
Sean Long is a former writer for MRC Business.