BlackAmericanAgenda for UNEMPLOYMENT

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NewsOne and Tom Joyner present BlackAmericanAgenda, the six issues we feel are the most important for Black Americans in this election year. Let it be your yardstick for measuring the merits of the politicians and parties on which you’ll be voting in November, bullets of wisdom for the ballot box.

For a list of all the BlackAmericanAgenda issues, CLICK HERE.

BlackAmericanAgenda | UNEMPLOYMENT

The Issues | The Backstory | Numbers To Know
An Expert Says | What We’d Like To See | Policies To Support

THE ISSUES

  • Black Americans still suffer more joblessness than white Americans.
  • Black Americans have suffered that inequity for over half a century.
  • Black Americans are particularly vulnerable to cuts in public jobs.

THE BACKSTORY

The good news was that the unemployment rate for African-Americans dropped a full percentage point in April 2012. The bad news was black unemployment stood at 13 percent. And many economists believe the decline in unemployment was due to many blacks dropping out of the job market altogether by ending their active search for employment. The overall unemployment rate was 8.1 percent. in April, a full five points lower than for African-Americans. Unfortunately, that disparity is nothing new. In fact the unemployment rate for blacks has been roughly double that of whites for 50 years.

To make matters worse, the public sector, where 20 percent of African-Americans are employed, has seen steep cuts. About 14.2 percent of Whites and 10.4 percent of Hispanics are employed in the public sector. Historically, the public sector has provided more equitable opportunity for African-Americans when it comes to jobs.

The Economic Policy Institute estimates that between 2007 and 2011 state and local governments shed about 765,000 jobs. African-Americans held about 20 percent of those jobs lost. From February 2010 to January 2012, there were 3.2 million new private sector non-farm jobs. By contrast, the public sector lost 438,000 jobs during the same period. Add in lower levels of educational attainment and top it off with the fact that blacks tend to live in more economically depressed areas with less opportunities for jobs, and there’s a recipe for serious, long-term employment issues.

NUMBERS TO KNOW

  • The rate of unemployment for blacks has been roughly double that of whites since the early 1970s.*
  • A 2005 Princeton University study found that black applicants without prison records are about as likely to get a job as whites who were just released from prison.**
  • Approximately 2.3 million African-Americans remain out of work. That is out of a total of 12.5 million Americans.
  • One in 5 blacks, 20 percent is employed by the public sector, compared to compared to 14.2 percent of Whites and 10.4 percent of Hispanics.
  • Approximately 600,000 private sector jobs have been lost since the start of the recession. Meanwhile, the private sector has begun adding jobs with about 200,000 per month being added in the first few months of 2012.

SOURCE: Bureau of Labor Statistics
*SOURCE: U.S. Department of Labor.
**SOURCE: Princeton University

AN EXPERT SAYS…

Steven Pitts, labor policy specialist for the UC Berkeley Labor Center, says that the issue of black unemployment does not exist in isolation. You can’t fix the economy simply by working to decrease black unemployment and improving the economy as a whole won’t automatically lead to improvements in black unemployment.

“You have to do both. We have serious racial inequities that must be addressed,” said Pitts.

In addition to unemployment, low-wage work is another issue facing African-Americans on the labor front.

“If you look at blacks who are working full time, 40 percent earned under $30,000. The fact is you have a large proportion of black folks who do the right thing, who have a jobs and go to work everyday and they don’t make a lot of money,” said Pitts.

Pitts also contends that the “austerity pathway” being pushed by many conservatives and Tea Party members is hurting economic recovery.

“If you think about the economy in the short-term there is the capacity to produce and then the demand for what you can produce,” said Pitts. “If no one is buying then why should I hire? The next step is the layoff of workers, which reduces spending. The short-term problem is lack of spending. Austerity measures means less spending.

“The austerity pathway has not helped Europe recover. We know it theoretically, folks who took macroeconomics in college know it, and it’s a matter of what’s playing out in Europe,” continued Pitts.

Austerity is also harming black workers because of their numbers in the public sector, said Pitts. Simply put, blacks tend to work in the public sector because there is more equal opportunity there.

“There is still employer bias that exists toward African-Americans, said Pitts. “The problem isn’t simply what someone brings to the table but how they are viewed when they come to the table.”

WHAT WE’D LIKE TO SEE

  • An effort to tackle both black unemployment and the economy at large as two individual issues, each needing to be addressed with specific solutions.
  • Build power in the black community so that when we do get to the negotiating table, concerns and demands regarding black unemployment are taken seriously and acted upon.
  • Unions must accept fair economic concessions to protect the collective bargaining rights of unions.

POLICIES TO SUPPORT

  • A public works bill that funds critical infrastructure projects while providing jobs.
  • Increased funding for public jobs such as teachers and police that would end the “austerity pathway” that has led to hundreds of thousands of job losses in the public sector which disproportionately affects blacks.
  • A law that ties automatic increases in the minimum wage to increases in inflation to remove the political debate.

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