a ‘Great Depression’
BY BRIAN WILLIAMS
It has been “a Great Recession for whites,” writes Kevin Hassett recently in the conservative magazine National Review, but for Blacks “it has been a Great Depression.” No matter how economists try to explain it, Hassett concludes, the simplest explanation is that “discrimination is alive and well.”
Black workers have been among those hardest hit not only by rising unemployment, but by foreclosures on houses and cutbacks in social services.
“African Americans are the caboose,” Marc Morial, president of the Urban League, told the media March 24 upon release of the group’s State of Black America report. Last year Black families made 62 percent as much as white families, a decline of 3 percent from 2008 as the economic crisis deepened.
The official unemployment rate for Blacks in March rose by 0.7 percent from the previous month, to 16.5 percent, nearly double the figure for white workers. In some states Blacks’ jobless rate is higher, like in Michigan, where it is 21 percent.
Black workers are also having a much harder time getting another job after they are laid off. They face “longer stretches of unemployment than the general population,” says a congressional Joint Economic Committee report released last month.
The report notes “the overall unemployment rate for the United States has masked the depth of the unemployment problem within the African American community.” One in four Black workers are without full-time jobs, being either unemployed or underemployed, according to this study. For teenagers who are Black more than 40 percent are without work, compared to the overall teen jobless rate of 26 percent.
According to the Labor Department, the overall unemployment rate for March was 9.7 percent, unchanged from the previous two months. “U.S. Economy Added 162,000 Jobs in March, Most in 3 Years,” headlined the New York Times, pitching the report as a sign that the “still-sputtering recovery was gaining traction.”
The hiring of temporary census workers for a few months accounts for almost one-third of these jobs. Hundreds of thousands more census takers are being hired over the next several months.
Barack Obama administration officials have made clear that despite this increased hiring, the jobless rate will remain steady or actually rise since “discouraged” workers—those the government doesn’t count as unemployed or being part of the workforce—are rejoining the jobs search in hopes of finding work. An additional 200,000 people were looking for jobs last month, according to the Economic Policy Institute. One million workers were still considered “discouraged” by the Labor Department in March.
Meanwhile, those facing long-term unemployment grew to 6.5 million without work for at least six months, an increase of more than 400,000 from February.