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Black unemployment rockets

African and Caribbean unemployment rates shot up by over 50% over the past year, according to shocking new figures.

New research, published by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and the Government Equalities Office, reveals the percentage of black jobseekers jumped from 13% in the first quarter of 2008, to 20% in the third quarter of 2009. White unemployment rose by just 2.6%.

The same study also reveals that African and Caribbean unemployment rose two and a half times faster than white unemployment in the same period.

EHRC chairman Trevor Phillips called for a “fundamental re-examination of the culture and practices.”

Last year Britain’s most senior black civil servant, Joe Montgomery, warned that the recession could cause a “generation of lost talent”, especially among black youth.

The government has ended a raft of projects aimed at tackling the ‘ethnic penalty’ in the workplace, prompting anger from the head of a BME employment taskforce.

Experts had feared that the current economic downturn would have a devastating disproportionate impact on Britain’s Black communities, but the rapidly rising gap between black and white unemployment will cause even more alarm.

While white unemployment rose by 2.6%, African and Caribbean unemployment climbed by 6.9%.

This comes on top of the underlining employment gap between races, that existed before the recession, including throughout the so-called ‘boom’ years of the mid-1990s.

Eight years ago, the then Prime Minister Tony Blair pledged to pledged to eradicate barriers facing Black jobseekers by the year 2013. His comments followed the publication of a Cabinet Office report showing a constant gap of 16% between black and white employment rates.

The latest figures, released this week, indicate that bosses are singling out black employees for the chop.

This is a similar pattern to what happened during the last recession under Conservative rule, when a Labour Force Survey discovered that black unemployment shot up at three times the rate of white unemployment between 1989 and 1995.

Responding to the latest report, Phillips said: ‘The data for the last six months suggests a significant deterioration in employment for those from ethnic minority groups which risks undoing much of the progress made over the last few years.

‘The figures also show that the employment outcomes of younger people remain a particular problem. The adverse economic and social impacts of widespread youth unemployment can leave scars which will take many years to heal.

‘This implies a fundamental re-examination of the culture and practices that underlie the way our society and workplaces operate. No recovery can be complete without it.’

Asian unemployment rose by marginally less than white unemployment, while the disabled saw very little change in their jobless rates over the past year.

By Lester Holloway

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