Measuring Minority Unemployment Gets You a Very Different Number
At the beginning of February 2016, the Great Cities Institute at the University of Illinois at Chicago released a devastating report on minority unemployment figures from 2005 to 2014. The Bureau of Labor Statistics may have reported an overall unemployment rate of 4.9% in January, but according to Great City’s report, that number doesn’t remotely apply to minority job-seekers.
The report finds that in New York City and Los Angeles, approximately 30% of black men 20 to 24 years old were out of work and not in school. These statistics are even worse in Chicago, where nearly half of the black men of the same age are in this position. Among Latinos, it’s 20%. For white males, it’s only 10%.
The effect of so many young men out of work isn’t just tragic for the jobless. Permanent unemployment is corrosive to their local communities as well, with the most-affected males coming from minority neighborhoods caught in a vicious cycle of despondency, poverty, violence, and health issues. And the viability of the cities within which these troubled communities are located is itself at risk as these situations continue.
The Editorial Board of the New York Times suggests that a solution for this massive unemployment existed for a while and deserves to be restored. According to the Times, the Recovery Act of 2009 enacted in response to the market crash of 2008 contained an employment subsidy that created 260,000 jobs for young people and adults. The program was widely popular with governors and employers. However, the approach fell out of favor with the Republican Congress a year later, and they declined to extend the program.
A 2013 analysis by the non-profit Economic Mobility Corporation found that program had lowered hiring costs so successfully that it rescued companies from the recession. 37% of the workers employed through the program were eventually hired by their companies.
The Times asserts that carefully targeted employment subsidies can be a useful tool for reducing the heartbreaking unemployment level among minorities in big cities where a sense of alienation becomes a powerful, destructive force. These threatened neighborhoods could become more prosperous places capable of providing a hopeful environment for their children.