Blacks Suffering Disproportionately in U.S. Economic-Job Crisis
While unemployment remains a seemingly intractable problem in the U.S., joblessness is far worse for minorities.
According to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate clocked in at 9.1 percent in July 2011 for the country as a whole.
However, for African-Americans, the unemployment rate is at lofty 15.9 percent, almost double the 8.1 percent for whites (the figure for Hispanics is 11.3 percent).
Since the beginning of the current recession, these figures have climbed from 3.7 percent for whites, 5.0 percent for Hispanics and 6.9 percent for blacks.
Stephen Bronars, senior labor economist at Welch Consulting in Washington D.C., told International Business Times that job losses for African American and Hispanic workers are due in part to the lower educational attainment of minority workers.
“The unemployment rate for college graduates is 4.3 percent,” he said. “Seven out of 8 unemployed African American workers have less than a college degree. Finally, many African Americans with college degrees work in the public sector where the growth rate in employment has been even less than in the private sector.”
Gaps in education levels also dampen the ability of blacks seeking good-paying jobs.
“African American workers have made progress in gaining white collar jobs as their educational attainment has risen over time.,” Bronars noted. “[However], there is still a racial gap in educational attainment and therefore African Americans are less likely to be employed in managerial and professional jobs than white workers.”
At the heart of the current crisis lies, of course, the collapse of the housing market.
According to Pew Research Center's Social & Demographic Trends, between 2005 and 2009, the median household wealth among black households plunged 53 percent, versus a 16 percent drop for white households.
Put another way, the median wealth of white households is now 20 times greater than that for black households.
Bronars points out the higher unemployment rate for minority workers is typical during downturns (for example, unemployment rate for African Americans averaged 19.5 percent in 1983, when the nation was in a deep recession).
Indeed, blacks have suffered disproportionately in the ongoing crisis, since they have lost tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs and endured huge cuts in public sector spending. Black teenagers bear the worst of it – their jobless rate is at a staggering 39.2 percent (versus 23 percent for white teenagers).
“Even during periods of prosperity the unemployment rate for minority workers is higher than for whites,” he added.
“Since 1972 the unemployment rate for African Americans averaged less than 8 percent in only one year . In contrast, the unemployment rate for white workers has been above 8 percent, on average, in only two years 2009 and 2010.”
On a broader level, according to a recent study by the National Urban League (NUL), almost all the financial/economic gains that blacks have accomplished over the past three decades were wiped out by the Great Recession.
The economic collapse is not only thinning the ranks of the black middle class, but has likely condemned millions more to permanent poverty.
It is indeed a very hard job market, regardless of race, especially for blue collar and less educated workers.
“The ratio of employment-to-population is lower than it has been since Baby Boomers first entered the labor market,” Bronars indicated.
“There is a deficit of 11.7 million jobs to bring the employment to population ratio up to pre-recession levels. It is too early to definitively tell whether a permanent underclass of jobless minority workers is developing, but I don't think that is happening. It is clear, however, that it will take many years for the job market to recover, and it will probably never fully recover for less skilled and less educated workers.”