“Getting people back on the job faster is one of our top priorities, but I must confess that last month Congress made that hard by letting unemployment insurance expire for more than a million people,” Obama said. He added that with each week Congress fails to restore those benefits, roughly 72,000 people join the ranks of people who’ve been out of work for more than one year.

According to a fact sheet released following Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday, research shows long-term unemployed job applicants are frequently overlooked and sometimes excluded from job opportunities—even when they have resumes and skills identical to those of other candidates.

In addition, labor department statistics released in December, show that while the overall unemployment rate has decreased from 7.0 percent to 6.7 percent, the joblessness rate for African-Americans hovers at 11.6 percent, and 32.2 percent for Blacks between the ages of 16 and 19.

MSNBC commentator and civil rights leader the Rev. Al Sharpton contends that Blacks generally face higher unemployment rates because of where they work.

“Ever since Obama has been in there’s been an increase in jobs in the private sector, but Black unemployment has increased. Why? Because we work in the public sector,” Sharpton told U.S. News last year.

In order to combat unemployment disparities, Obama is using executive authority to issue a presidential memorandum urging federal agencies adopt practices to ensure that unemployed individuals and those facing financial difficulties due to no fault of their own receive fair treatment and consideration for employment.

Among initiatives to buttress hiring are programs to recruit long-term unemployed people and strategies to get them employed in middle- to high-skill occupations.

Other measures call for raising the minimum wage to $10.10 for employees nationwide and extending emergency unemployment benefits for three months while recipients look for work.

(Special to the NNPA from The Washington Informer.)

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