WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama met with three prominent African-American leaders Wednesday on how to improve economic and employment opportunities for all Americans — not just minorities.
The White House meeting yielded no new ideas or initiatives, according to NAACP president Benjamin Todd Jealous, who attended the session with National Urban League president Marc Morial and the Rev. Al Sharpton, the founder of the National Action Network.
Jealous said the one-hour meeting centered more on region rather than race, on how to increase the flow of jobs to those geographic areas suffering most because of the sour economy.
"We talked about things that benefit all people," Jealous said after the meeting. "In these times, when everyone is hurting, the focus needs to be and has every right to be on the lifting of all boats."
A White House official said Obama and the African-American leaders "addressed the challenges facing economically disadvantaged communities and the variety of efforts to extend support during this economic recovery."
The nation's overall unemployment rate took an unexpected dip to 9.7 percent last month from 10 percent in December. African-American unemployment, however, showed little change at 16.5 percent. The January jobless rate for whites was 8.7 percent.
The administration did see a positive glimmer in January's African-American unemployment figures: The jobless rate for black youths between 16 and 19 dropped to 43.8 percent from 48.4 percent in December.