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Black Jobless Numbers Grim

POSTED: July 02, 2010, 12:00 am

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TheBureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its monthly Employment Situation Summary for June and the data paints a dismal picture of the nation’s economy. The report indicates nonfarm payroll decreased by 125,000 jobs last month with most of the loss attributed to a decrease of 225,000 temporary jobs attached to the 2010 Census. The loss of Census jobs is particularly hard upon residents in urban communities, specifically Blacks and Latinos. The BLS reports that private sector employment did increase by 83,000 jobs.

The nation’s unemployment rate was down slightly to 9.5 percent but as has been the case, there is a racial dimension to the jobless picture. The unemployment rate for whites is 8.6 percent but for Blacks the rate is 15.4 percent. The rate for individuals of Hispanic or Latino ethnicity was 12.4 percent. A closer look at the numbers reveals the extent of the racial gap. Last month the unemployment rate for Black men was 17.4 percent but 8.9 percent for white men, age 20 and over. A similar disparity exists between Black women at 11.8 percent compared to their white counterparts at 7.1 percent. Hardest hit among Blacks are young adults, age 16 to 19, who registered an unemployment rate of 39.9 percent compared to white youth at 23.2 percent. For young people, many of whom contribute to household income, the coming summer months do not hold much hope for securing employment since cities across the country have cut jobs programs due to budget crises.

What the numbers also do not fully capture is the true extent of the economic crisis in the Black community. Total joblessness among Blacks entails those individuals not captured in the Bureau of Labor Statistics monthly survey because they are no longer looking for work, and are not in the process of securing unemployment benefits. These individuals are part of the long-term jobless. A growing proportion of out of work Black Americans fill this category of the unemployed. The Bureau of Labor Statistics data reveals there were 6.8 million people who made up the long-term unemployed in June, who have been jobless for 27 weeks or more. This group comprises almost half, 45.5 percent, of the nation’s unemployed.

The challenges facing the long-term unemployment are made that much more difficult as many are losing their unemployment benefits as Republicans in the Senate continue to block a Democratic proposal to extend benefits. The House has already passed an extension but Senate Republicans are attempting to force the Democratic Majority to specify how they intend to pay for the extension, with the GOP insisting that deficit reduction remain the top legislative priority. Meanwhile, as the political posturing continues on Capitol Hill, millions of Americans, many of them Black Americans who have been hardest hit, face the prospect of being totally cut off from any source of income.
The June numbers pose a continuing challenge to the Obama administration. The President has maintained that an economic recovery will benefit all groups universally but the jobs numbers belie that optimism. Black Americans were already in recession prior to the official start of the current economic downturn, and the numbers now at play are more akin to a depression. President Obama has resisted calls for a focused policy intervention to tackle Black joblessness but his stubbornness may begin to cost him political points if Blacks begin to think that they have been abandoned. While the President has suggested that the summer will begin a round of recovery related employment, there is little evidence that jobs will materialize among the hardest hit Black communities.

Last month 2.6 million workers were “marginally attached” to the labor force, meaning they were not in the labor force, but wanted and were available for work, and had searched for employment sometime in the prior 12 months. These individuals were not counted as unemployed because they had not looked for work in the four weeks prior to the Bureau of Labor Statistics survey. Among this group are so-called “discouraged workers,” some 1.2 million people who are not currently looking for work because they believe no jobs are available for them. The remaining 1.4 million marginally attached did not look for work because of school or family obligations.

The June employment numbers also reveal the impact upon specific industries. Employment in the leisure and hospitality sector rose by 28,000 in areas such as amusements, gambling and recreation. Some of that growth is attributed to the arrival of the summer vacation season. Jobs in transportation and warehousing increased by 15,000 - with the sector adding 44,000 jobs since February of this year. Health care and manufacturing each registered a monthly gain of 9,000 jobs, as both sectors have been trending upward since the end of last year. Mining employment also picked up 6,000 jobs in June. Employment in temporary help services increased by 21,000 jobs last month and this represents a positive sign since it is often an indication that private industry is gearing up for the hiring of permanent employees. Two negative spots in the June employment data was the construction sector, shedding 22,000 jobs in June, and government as previously noted dropped over 200,000 jobs with the loss of temporary jobs associated with the 2010 Census effort.

 

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