Joint Center Report: The Internet's Importance in Finding a Job Is Bigger Than You Think
Today, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies released a report on broadband and jobs that will help the African American community by informing the discussion of Internet access and its value for those in our community searching for jobs. Earlier this year, the Joint Center asked 1,600 Americans about their methods for job searches. This report reveals that African Americans were much more likely to find valuable job information online. They were also more likely to use social media and mobile devices as part of their job searches.
Specifically, fully half (50%) of African American Internet users said the Internet was "very important" to them in finding a job. That's significantly higher than the 36% average.
The survey results also showed that 36% of African Americans said they applied for a job online the last time they were on the job market, compared with 26% for all respondents.
Smartphones were an especially important part of the job search process for African Americans, as nearly half (47%) used their smartphone for job search. By comparison, slightly more than a third (36%) of Latinos used their smartphone for job search and about a quarter of whites (24%) did so.
The most recent federal unemployment figures show the continuing importance of helping people find work. The Labor Department's latest data shows that in September, the U.S. unemployment rate declined slightly to 7.2 percent. That figure masks both good and disappointing news. The good news is that the unemployment rate for African-American women aged 20+ is at 10 percent, the lowest rate since March 2009. The bad news: Overall black unemployment is still a dismal 12.9%.
For federal officials, particularly at the FCC, this report offers clear and decisive proof that those with Internet access have markedly better opportunities and are more empowered to find employment than those who do not. This includes using the Internet to increase knowledge about different jobs and industries, finding specific jobs, and completing the application process.
On Monday, President Obama-appointee Tom Wheeler officially became FCC Chairman, and he appears poised to move quickly to tackle important policy issues. One of these critically important issues is likely to involve wireless spectrum auctions. One very important aspect is a fact that was borne out by the Joint Center's report -- smartphone and mobile broadband use. As consumers surge in adopting mobile broadband options, wireless carriers must be allowed to compete in this auction without restrictions for the spectrum they need. That will be the best and quickest way to expand wireless broadband access, and to ensure that the innovative and creative mobile job opportunities continue to be met.
Beyond that, the report shows that programs to improve digital literacy and skills bring substantial benefits to the African American community. This reinforces one of the key conclusions of President Obama's 2010 National Broadband Plan. That document called for community based education to help Americans not already online understand the basics of the Internet, including using it to find employment.
There is no silver bullet that will magically bring down African American unemployment. But as the report demonstrates, the expansion of Internet access choices - especially wireless broadband - brings with it great and immediate benefits throughout the African American community.
Leroy Jones, Jr.