KENWOOD — African-American political leaders are pushing for more action on unemployment after a recent report found Illinois had the highest African-American unemployment rate in the nation.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson was joined by city, county and federal politicians Friday pledging to focus on improving the issues put in stark relief by an analysis by the Illinois Policy Institute.
The institute’s report found that Illinois tied with Nevada for the worst in the nation at 12.7 percent unemployment for African-Americans in 2016.
The figures are even starker for young men. A report from the University of Illinois at Chicago's Great Cities Institute found that 44 percent of African-American men in Illinois between the ages of 20-24 are out of work. The rate is 47 percent for the same group in Chicago.
Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th), chairman of the City Council’s Black Caucus, called the statistics a catastrophe.
“We’re talking about the termination of a race, the extinction of black people,” Sawyer said.
Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd), chairman of the Council’s Committee on Human Relations, said she is calling hearings in June to determine what the city can do about the unemployment issue.
Jackson said the Rainbow/Push Coalition will hold a rally about unemployment on Saturday at its Kenwood headquarters at 930 E. 50th St. and would be holding a gubernatorial candidates forum later in the year on the issue.
U.S. Rep. Danny Davis (D-Chicago) said he’s holding a African-American males summit in September that will focus on unemployment.
All pledged to look for legislative solutions to improve the situation, but on Friday they offered few specifics beyond a call for Gov. Bruce Rauner to increase funding for job training.
Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer said the barriers to getting a job, like mandatory credit checks and ruling out applicants with a criminal record, can be undone.
“These are things we’ve done ourselves and can undo as well,” Gainer said.
All called on the media to put more of its attention on unemployment as worry also increased that the stories coming out of Memorial Day weekend in black communities would again be about shootings and crime.