Washington, DC – Today, Heather Boushey, Senior Economist at the Center for American Progress, had the following reaction to the announcement of September unemployment figures:

“Economists conclude that the Great Recession is officially over, which means that the economy is no longer contracting and is growing again. But it’s not yet out of first gear, and the path back to a strong labor market appears to be a long one.

For all workers, the situation continues to be challenging. The share of workers who are employed continues to hover around record lows for the past quarter century for all racial and ethnic groups, but far fewer African Americans are at work compared to other groups: 51.7 percent of African Americans, 59.2 percent of Hispanics, and 59.7 percent of Asians, and 59.5 percent of whites were employed in September.

The problem is that employers have yet to begin hiring in significant numbers. Overall the economy added 64,000 private sector jobs in September, far less than half as many as necessary just to keep pace with population growth, let alone make a dent in the long lines of the unemployed. For every five people searching for a job there is only one available. It’s like a sad game of musical chairs: one chair, five seeking a seat.

African-American workers have an unemployment rate double that of whites, 16.1 percent compared to 8.7 percent. And Hispanic workers’ unemployment rate of 12.4 percent is above that of whites but not as high as for African Americans.

The only way to improve the employment situation is to give employers reasons to ramp up hiring. In surveys, employers continue to cite a lack of customers—a lack of demand for the goods and services they sell—as their most pressing problem. Policymakers can help by continuing to fund programs that boost spending, such as ensuring that those who have been out of work for more than six months can access unemployment benefits. And they can invest in jobs programs like the TANF Emergency Fund that put more than a quarter million people to work over the past year and a half.”