African-American unemployment at 16 percent

The economy and jobs will be big issues in Washington again this coming week.

While unemployment among the general population is about 9.1 percent, it's at 16.2 percent African Americans, and a bit higher still for African American males.

CBS News correspondent Michelle Miller reports that, historically, the unemployment rate for African Americans has always been higher than the national average. However, now it's at Depression-era levels. The most recent figures show African American joblessness at 16.2 percent. For black males, it's at 17.5 percent; And for black teens, it's nearly 41 percent.

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For some, it's crunch time at STRIVE, a job training program in East Harlem, where instructors use drill sergeant-like techniques. They teach job-seekers to correct their mistakes by fining them a quarter each time they make them.

For young men of color, especially black males in New York City, things are especially bad. According to the think tank, the Community Service Society, 34 percent of New York's young black men age 19 to 24 are not working.

"If you haven't connected with the world of work by the age of 25, it's a permanent problem for the rest of your career," says David Johns with the Community Service Society.

Christopher Scott, 20 and a high school drop-out, got a GED last year, but he hasn't been able to find a job ever since.

"It makes me feel degraded in a way cause at 20, I should be more independent," Scott says.

For those with less than a college education, finding a job alone isn't the answer. Even if they secure employment, it's often below minimum wage, and in places like New York City, it's barely enough to survive.

Jermaine Christian, currently working as a restaurant busboy, graduated from one of the top high schools in the city in 2010. He can't afford college, so after searching for a year now, he works for $5.50 per hour.

"I became more or less desperate and took anything I could find," Christian says.

Job counselors say part of the problem is that high schools aren't teaching marketable skills.

"Unless you have a skill coming out of high school, in this society, in this economy, you will not be able to find a job," Johns says.

Even so, in this climate, where jobs are scarce, even having a real skill is still no guarantee of a job.

  • Michelle Miller

    Michelle Miller is an award-winning CBS News correspondent based in New York, reporting for all CBS News broadcasts and platforms. Her work regularly appears on the "CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley", "CBS This Morning" and "CBS Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood". She joined CBS News in 2004.

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