Labor Secretary: High Rates of Unemployment Are ‘Ridiculous in This Country’

By Elizabeth Harrington | April 12, 2012 | 4:27pm EDT

U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis (AP File Photo)

( – Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said Thursday that the high rates of unemployment for young people are “ridiculous in this country.”

In her speech during the second day of the National Action Network convention, hosted by the NAN’s founder and President Rev. Al Sharpton, Solis spoke about the reenactment of the 1965 civil rights march in Selma, Ala., in March, where she marched alongside Sharpton, Rev. Jesse Jackson and union leaders.

“We marched for respect, for minorities, for senior citizens and for yes, the right to vote and to be heard,” Solis said. “And we marched for health care and for safer workplaces and for fair wages and for dignity and respect in the workplace.

“And we didn’t forget about marching for our young people who right now are experiencing high rates of unemployment. That is ridiculous in our country that is so valuable,” she said.

The secretary’s comments came at the NAN’s 14th annual convention in Washington, D.C., which runs through Saturday. Also featured at the convention from the Obama administration were Attorney General Eric Holder and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the youth unemployment rate for ages 16 to 24 was 18.1 percent in July 2011, the most recent data available. The youth unemployment rates by demographic were: whites at 15.9 percent, blacks at 31 percent, and Hispanics at 20.1 percent.

In July 2008, the youth unemployment rate for the ages 16 to 24 was 14 percent, before President Barack Obama took office. That year white youth unemployment was at 12.3 percent, blacks 24.8 percent, and Hispanics 16.0 percent.

The unemployment rate overall when President Obama took office in January 2009 was 7.8 percent. After taking office, the rate peaked at 10 percent in October 2009 and currently stands at 8.2 percent, according to BLS.

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