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Blacks Hit Hard By Unemployment In Some States

By CityTownInfo.com Staff
July 22, 2009

In states such as New York and Alabama, the rate of unemployment for blacks has risen disproportionately during the recession.

The Montgomery Advertiser [from an article originally located at http://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com/article/20090717/NEWS01/907170332&referrer=FRONTPAGECAROUSEL] reports that according to the Washington-based Economic Policy Institute, African-Americans are more than twice as likely to be unemployed than white workers in Alabama, New York, Mississippi and Texas. Algernon Austin, director of EPI's Race, Ethnicity and Economic Program, pointed out that the disparity in unemployment has worsened in the last 18 months. In Alabama, for example, there was a 9.3 percentage point difference between the unemployment rate for blacks and whites, compared to 1.6 percent in the last quarter of 2007.

"Black job loss has not been concentrated in any one sector of the economy," Austin noted. "Black workers in manufacturing, wholesale and retail trade, transportation and utilities and finance, insurance and real estate have all experienced significant job losses."

EPI predicted that the gap would grow to almost 12 percent by the first quarter of 2010. Stetson blamed the trend partly on the continued loss of the state's manufacturing and textile industry, which typically employs blacks. But he also considered the role of discrimination.

"While there has been some slowdown in white-collar jobs, some industries in Alabama have been completely closing up shop in the Black Belt. . .eliminating those high-minority, low-wage positions," he remarked. "But a lot of times minorities are the last ones hired and the first ones fired because they're the lowest on the totem pole."

The race disparity in unemployment is similar in New York, where a recent report released last week by City Comptroller William Thompson Jr. indicated that the African-Americans unemployment rate in New York City was 14.7 percent for the first quarter of 2009, compared to 5.7 percent at the same time last year. Meanwhile, the city's overall unemployment rate swelled to 8.1 percent, compared to 4.9 percent in 2008.

The comptroller's chief economist, Frank Braconi, could not explain with certainty why the black unemployment rate rose so much more, reports the Associated Press [from an article originally located at http://www.businessweek.com/ap/financialnews/D99E74281.htm]. He suggested that the trend might reflect the high number of retail jobs lost, which are typically filled by black and Hispanic workers. The Hispanic unemployment rate rose from 6.4 to 9.3 percent.

"The usual pattern is that the unemployment rate among African-Americans tends to be about twice as high as for non-Hispanic whites," said Braconi, who was quoted in The New York Times, "but the gap has widened substantially in the city during the past year."

But the trend is not apparent in all states. The Associated Press [from an article originally located at http://www.forbes.com/feeds/ap/2009/07/21/ap6681636.html] reports that in Georgia, white men are bearing the brunt of job losses, according to a state Department of Labor paper released last week. The study found that the number of white men receiving unemployment insurance benefits between December 2007 and May 2009 increased by 211 percent--the largest increase among all ethnic groups.

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