the economy slowly recovers, there is a staggering
reality facing the national black community - the
absence of work. All segments of the nation’s population
seem to be pulling out of the hole dug by the recession,
except for African Americans. For them, the hole is
as deep as it’s ever been (with exception of when
the “Great Recession” hit rock bottom in June 2009).
One can easily conclude that
someone out there doesn’t want black people
Bureau of Labor Statistics released its monthly “Jobs
report” last week, and in the middle of an election
year, the focus, of course, was on job creation. 80,000
(non-farm payroll) jobs were created in June, 2012.
The nation’s unemployment rate remained at 8.2%, the
same as it was in May. However, black unemployment
rose from 13.6% in May to 14.4% in June. What
exactly does that mean? Has the nation returned to
last hired, first fired practices of the past? That’s
not clear, but whatever it does mean, black unemployment
is now “officially” double that of whites in this
unemployment is 7.4% (the same as it was the month
before). Latino unemployment remained at 11.0% (the
same as it was in May). The deeper (darker) question
here is, why are others holding work while black people are losing
work? Nobody has answers.
rate reports don’t really tell the whole story. They
only reports people “out of work” and looking for
work in the preceding month. That excludes a whole
lot of people, including those who may have been out
of work for six months or more, and those who may
have stopped looking for work. The University
of California at Berkeley released a data brief that painted a much darker reality of
what is actually happening to the black community.
Called, “Work in the Black Community,” the brief summarizes
for the past three years the realities of the job
market in the nation’s “recovery
period,” and disaggregates various segments of the
population in order to see where the change is actually
we know where its not taking place…in the black community. But who’s
to blame for that. We know the Federal Recovery Act
has created construction and service jobs all over
the nation. Let’s take that off the “Blame Obama”
plate right now…because most have local hiring requirements
attached to their compliance regulations. But the
contractors that are hiring seem to have an absence
of black people on their hiring crews. They hire from
the local community, they just don’t hire us. There
seems to be a pattern to this, almost as if there
is a loophole somewhere that everybody knows about
- except us. Why do I say that? Because
nobody else’s employment numbers are slipping.
Just ours - now, you can call it my conspiracy paranoia
- but the brief also reports the nation’s “employment-population
ratios” that time the rest of the story (that unemployment
rates don’t tell).
employment-population ratio is the best jobs indicator
that captures the percentage of the population that
is employed and can interpret the probability that
a member of a population is employed - something unemployment
rates don’t capture. Discouraged workers (people not
looking for work) are likely to be captured in this
report, whereas retired persons, full time students,
disabled persons and homemakers are not. In short,
it provides a fuller context of the nation’s employment
Why are others holding work
while black people are losing work?
the whole labor force, the employment population ration
is 58.6%. For whites, it’s 59.4%. For blacks, it’s
53.1%. Here, you see that unemployment affects black
women as adversely as it affects black men. The ratio
of black men working is 54.5%. For black women, it’s
52.0. Black teens are most adversely impacted. Teen
employment population ratio (ages 16-19) for the nation
is 26.6%. For white teens, it’s 29.7%. For black teens,
it’s 16.8% for black male teens, it’s 15.7%. Work
has disappeared almost altogether for them. Deplorable.
Even more deplorable is that hardly anybody is talking
about it. Silence doesn’t help the situation.
sure this isn’t just happening in Los
Angeles. I can’t speak for the whole nation, just
where I live, work and socialize. It stands to reason
that it is the case for most of the country, since
the unemployment rates and population employment ratios
are across the board . But they are much higher
in urban America. Out of work black
men often take a bad rap, like they somehow don’t
want to work. How about they can’t find work? - Even
the work in plain sight.
near every street in the southland is torn up from
construction, as is damn near every freeway. I purposely
look for BMWs (Black Men Working). I rarely see any
and I’m not the only one who notices this. It’s often
a point of conversation in the circles I run in.
fact, I can say with relative certainty, I see none
much more than I see one. If I see two,
I damn near pull over and clap. We need to applaud
any black man who holds down a job in this economy
- however long he holds it. We also need to dispel
the notion that black men don’t want to work.
Maybe it’s just me, but one can easily conclude that
someone out there doesn’t want them to work. Or maybe
the scarcity of work just seems to “coincidentally”
impact black men more than anybody else. There’s another
factor here, and we need to find out what that is.
you want to frame, the disappearance of work in the
black community needs to become more than a silent
reality. It needs to become a public conversation
- and a focus of direct action.
Dr. Anthony Asadullah Samad,
is a national columnist, managing director of the
Urban Issues Forum
and author of
Saving The Race: Empowerment Through Wisdom. His Website is AnthonySamad.com. Twitter
to contact Dr. Samad.