For Black Men Its A Permanent Recession

For Black Men Its A Permanent Recession
Black unemployment is the highest in the U.S.

AFRICANGLOBE – Six years after America sank into the deepest economic downturn since the 1930s, the jobless rate has fallen to 5.9 percent, the lowest since July 2008. But one demographic group — African-American men — seems to be stuck in a permanent recession.

Eleven percent of Black men over 20 are unemployed today. That’s down from 19 percent in 2010, but it’s still the highest of any ethnic or racial group. By comparison, 9.6 percent of Black women are unemployed, while White men have an unemployment rate of 4.4 percent. That racial disparity, alas, is nothing new. Since the government began tracking unemployment in 1940, the jobless rate for Black men has consistently been at least twice that of White males.

Social scientists, economists and other experts cite a variety of reasons for the high unemployment rate among Black males: lack of training, loss of public-sector jobs, high incarceration rates (at least five times that of White men), unequal access to social networks and outright discrimination. When coupled with the fact that the recession hit all men particularly hard (men lost 2.6 jobs to every 1 by a woman, in large part because of a decline in manufacturing and construction), a clearer picture of the tenuous relationship Black men have with today’s labor market starts to emerge.

Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan brought the issue of unemployment among African-Americans in general to the forefront of national attention earlier this year, intentionally or not, when he said, there’s been a “tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work.” Many saw his comments as racial code aimed at Black men. (Ryan strongly denied this.) But research suggests that his perceptions of race and employment may not have been so out of step with the views of other White Americans. The New York Times Upshot blog found that in 2012, 40 percent of White Americans thought Blacks didn’t work as hard as Whites. Another 45 percent said that Blacks lacked willpower and motivation to get out of poverty.

While federal law bans racial discrimination in employment and some companies have affirmative action policies designed to promote workforce diversity, Steven Pitts, a labor-policy specialist at the Labor Center at the University of California, Berkley, said racism continues to play a role in hiring practices. But Pitts added that structural racism in “feeder” institutions like higher education, the criminal justice system and the housing market plays a much larger role than individual bias: “The issue isn’t really one of individual behavior, but to actually change institutions and organize accordingly.”

Lee Bowes, the CEO of America Works, a nationwide for-profit employment program, said that, though the loss of manufacturing jobs has disproportionately hurt African-Americans, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t jobs. To find employment, people need to have personal relationships with employers, he explained. “Everyone thinks getting a job is having a good resume. We know it’s networking.”

The Congressional Black Caucus has pushed jobs to the top of its agenda, and last winter President Barack Obama announced the formation of a task force to strengthen opportunities for young boys of color (whatever that is), noting that there are some “groups that have had the odds stacked against them in unique ways that require unique solutions.” The Senate’s only two Black members introduced a bill that would target minority youth unemployment.

But these efforts have yet to produce much of an impact. In New York state, home to the largest number of Blacks in the country and consistently one of the most expensive places to live, the struggle to find a good job can be particularly difficult. According to the most recent data available, 17.4 of Black men are unemployed in the state. Meanwhile, according to new research from the Community Service Society of New York, only 51 percent of Black men are working (this includes students, the disabled and those not looking for work) in New York City.

In this series of articles, five African-American men in the New York area talk about their experience finding work. They say that their experience with the job market is different than that of White men and women. They say they are judged on their appearance and often are viewed as “thugs” or just plain lazy. Unemployment does not look the same in any one household, and that applies to the men profiled here. These stories aren’t meant to be comprehensive, but rather give a snapshot of the experience of looking for work as a Black man.


By: Reniqua Allen