The news: Illinois’ unemployment rate of 9.8 percent as of October was worse than the national average of 9.6 percent, despite recent gains.

Behind the news: The unemployment rate among Illinois’ young black population is the third worst in the nation, topped only by Indiana and Massachusetts.

In Illinois, one in every three black people–”or 33.1 percent–”ages 20 to 24 is unemployed, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data from 2009, the most recent year for which the data are available.
That’s more than twice the state average for the same age group. In comparison, the rates for white and Latino people within the same age range are 13.6 and 15.2, respectively. The rate of unemployed young black people in Indiana is 39 percent.

There are several possible reasons, experts say. Young workers are often the first to be fired, and white job seekers often live closer to job prospects, are more educated and have social networks connecting them to more opportunities, said Algernon Austin, director of a program on race, ethnicity and the economy for the Washington, D.C.-based Economic Policy Institute.
But even when the education levels are the same, black college graduates are twice as likely to be unemployed than people who are white, according to a report recently authored by Austin.

Another part of the problem may be discrimination. A 2004 study on labor market discrimination in Chicago and Boston found that resumes with white-sounding names were nearly 50 percent more likely to receive callbacks from employers than people with black-sounding names. Austin says other studies have shown similar results.

When looking at the young black population, Austin said, unemployment “is going to be worse, especially now.”