Minorities Facing High Unemployment Rates

Compiled By Yaffa Klugerman
November 25, 2009

Blacks and Latinos are facing higher unemployment rates than the national average.

The Boston Globe reports that the U.S. unemployment rate among black workers rose to 15.7 percent, while the rate for Latino workers soared to 13.2 percent. Both were well above the national 10.2 percent unemployment rate. The Globe notes that economists expect the jobless rate to climb to as high as 20 percent in minority communities.

The unemployment rate for young minorities is even higher. The Washington Post reports that joblessness for 16- to 24-year-old black men reached a staggering 34.5 percent in October. Moreover, according to the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University, lower-income white teens were more likely to find work than upper-income black teens.

"I think we're labeled for not wanting to do nothing- -knuckleheads or hardheads," said Delonta Spriggs, 24, an unemployed DC resident who was interviewed by the Post. "But all of us ain't bad."

In response to the crisis, the Globe reports that community activists are pressing the White House to give more direct federal aid to urban areas. They are pushing for more unemployment benefits, food assistance, and a broad jobs program, and hope to demonstrate during the White House jobs summit scheduled for December 3.

"Make no mistake: this is the civil rights issue of the moment," said Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, who was quoted by the Globe. "There is no greater priority for the civil rights community."

But Diana Furchtgott-Roth, director of the Center for Employment Policy at the Hudson Institute, told Fox News that the racial disparity in unemployment can be attributed to the fact that unskilled jobs are usually the first to disappear during a recession. She explained that since a high percentage of minorities are employed in construction--a sector which has experienced signficant cutbacks--minorities are being hit particularly hard by the recession.

Nevertheless, an article in MSNBC.com notes that even having an ethnic-sounding name may prevent some job seekers from being considered for work. A study by researchers at MIT and the University of Chicago found that job applicants with African-American-sounding names like Tyrone and Tamika were less likely to be contacted by prospective employers, regardless of their qualifications.

And Tammy Kabell, a resume consultant, told MSNBC.com that she has seen it happen. "I've had frank discussions with HR managers and hiring managers in the corporate world, and they tell me when they see a name that's ethnic or a black name, they perceive that person as having low education or coming from a lower socioeconomic class," she said. "At 10 percent unemployment, they're going through a lot of resumes, so they can be selective of who they call."

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