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DURANT: How Obamacare will make it harder for blacks to find jobs

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Jobs in America remain hard to find. That's especially true in Black America, and Obamacare is poised to make the jobs picture even worse.

More than twice as many black men are unemployed as white men — 13 percent versus 6.4 percent. More than 10.5 percent of black women are jobless — again, nearly double the 5.5 percent of white women without jobs.

When Barack Obama took office as the nation's first black president in 2009, the ratio of black-white unemployment was at its lowest level in decades. Under his economic stewardship, the fate of black America has taken a turn for the worse.

Unfortunately, that won't change until the president gets rid of the regulatory red tape and suffocating legislation that shackle the economy.

The chronic unemployment afflicting black America is especially worrisome because its effects can fester for years after a recovery takes hold. The longer workers are without regular employment, the harder it is for them to get back into the labor force. Sustained joblessness can lead to breakdowns in the family and increased crime.

Blacks know this better than anyone else. Research on hiring patterns conducted by professors from the University of Connecticut and the University of California at Santa Cruz, suggests that black workers with relatively short periods of idleness are among those most likely to be hired when the economy picks up again. Black workers with long gaps on their resumes are the last to be taken on.

Many of President Obama's initiatives do little to put unemployed blacks back to work. Consider Obamacare, the president's signature legislative achievement. State-level insurance exchanges — a crucial part of the law — officially open for enrollment Tuesday. These online marketplaces are set to begin delivering health coverage early next year.

The problem is, by driving up the price of insurance, and then passing along those new expenses to businesses, Obamacare discourages employers from hiring. Employers now have a direct economic incentive not to expand their workforce. Entrepreneurs face even greater financial barriers in getting their firms off the ground.

A recent Gallup poll found that 41 percent of small-business owners have frozen hiring because of this law. One in five have actually laid off workers in anticipation of the law. Nearly two in five have curbed plans to grow.

The situation will only get worse next year, according to a survey conducted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. More than 60 percent of small businesses do not plan to hire in 2014, thanks largely to the new health care law. Folks lucky enough to keep their jobs may be affected, too, as nearly a quarter of small businesses plan to make employees part-timers in order to avoid the law's requirement that they provide them with insurance.

No less an economic authority than the Federal Reserve has indicted Obamacare as a job-killer. In a report earlier this year, the agency wrote, "Employers in several districts cited the unknown effects of the Affordable Care Act as reasons for planned layoffs and reluctance to hire more staff."

Historically, many black Americans have responded to economic headwinds by taking matters into their own hands and starting their own businesses. While black workers generally have fewer years of formal education, they tend to be more entrepreneurial. Young blacks are, on a proportionate basis, twice as likely to create new businesses.

But wrongheaded policies and overregulation have resulted in a war on entrepreneurs, and Obamacare, once again, is chief among them. In addition to driving up the cost of basic insurance policies, the increased cost of health care often deprives black entrepreneurs of the funds they need to grow businesses or hire additional employees.

As recently as 2011, unemployment rates among blacks in five U.S. states ran above 20 percent. Including discouraged workers in that total increases joblessness in those states to Depression-era levels.

These dire economic straits have come about on Mr. Obama's watch. Expanding the size of government with the likes of Obamacare has only made matters worse. Sadly, the job prospects for black Americans will not improve until policies like Obamacare play a less prominent role in the economy.

Leah Durant is a political commentator and former trial lawyer with the Department of Justice.

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