Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Minorities and Unemployment - Where we are

It's no secret that unemployment is bad, not only in this country, but worldwide.

What is not as reported on, however, is the fact that in this country minorities are the ones worst off in terms of unemployment. As a matter of fact, unemployment hit record highs for Latinos and African Americans this year, even though it went down (even if only by a little) for Caucasians.

The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) did a study early in the year that estimated that unemployment for African-Americans would hit a 25-year high of 17.2%. They estimated Latino's unemployment would hit almost 14% (To put this in perspective, the rate for white unemployment was estimated to reach 9% this year). Their estimates were becoming reality by March, when Black unemployment hit 16.5%, and Hispanic unemployment hit 12.6%

As the EPI report says, minorities began the recession in a recession. The African Americans pre-recession unemployment rate was 8.6%. At that point it was even higher than the White unemployment rate of 8.1% at the time of the report (January 2010).

The fact that African American and Hispanic unemployment has been growing much faster than White unemployment is addressed in a Washington Post article. It says that
“Blacks, Hispanics and men have suffered the most mainly because they have been disproportionately employed in sectors hardest hit in the recession -- manufacturing and construction.

For instance, the unemployment rate for blacks is expected to reach 27 percent in Michigan, which has been shedding auto industry jobs. Other states with jobless rates above 20 percent for blacks are Alabama, Illinois, Ohio and South Carolina.”
In the study “The State of Minorities from the Center For American Progress it says that
“In the third quarter of 2009, Hispanics’ usual median weekly earnings were $527.13 in 2008 dollars; African Americans’ earnings were $608.33 a week; whites made $753.19 a week; and Asian Americans made $877.22 a week.”

The reasons behind all of this are plenty, and of course, hard to address.

In order to fix the unemployment rates we would have to erase the effects of centuries of discriminatory beliefs and practices. This, from my point of view, will be extremely hard because most people don't even want to begin seeing how past discriminatory practices still affect our population today.

Although we want Obama to make things better right away (and wish he would have done so already), there is no band aid solution for the situation this country is in. We have to start by fixing our educational system, starting from first grade up. According to a Politico story, in eight-grade math “ black students are roughly three grade levels behind their white peers.” Fixing this will be time consuming, but it is essential in preparing our youth and our minorities for a better future.

After fixing the K-12 educational system, we have to focus on training adult learners. We have to provide them with the skills needed in a changing economy, or else the unemployed minorities will stay behind once the economy gets better.

Also, as the EPI suggests, policy makers need to target key locations and demographics in order to help our population. Unless this happens, the effects of this minority economic depression will be devastating. The EPI believes that the continuing black unemployment rates would put African American child poverty at a higher rate than 50%. This is unacceptable, and can be stopped before it happens.


Stay tuned for the rest of the month for tips on getting a job, and on achieving upward mobility if you already have a job.

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