African Americans Hit Hardest By Job LossPublished by Pamela Gentry on Friday, March 6, 2009 at 9:53 pm.
By Pamela Gentry, Senior Political Anaylst
March 6, 2009 – African-American workers were hit the hardest by the continued plunge in the labor market where more than 651,000 jobs were lost in the month of February. This was the largest loss of jobs in one month in nearly 50 years.
Since the recession began in December of 2007, 4.4 million jobs have disappeared. Black folks who have lost their jobs or stopped looking are now part of historic double-digit unemployment statistics. From January to February the overall population jumped from 7.6 to 8.1 percent: African-American workers soared to 13.4 percent.
African-Americans aren’t alone; Hispanic unemployment rates also hit double-digits since January and are now at 10.9 percent.
During a conference call Friday, White House Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel said the president’s stimulus plan has placed resources at the state and local levels that will help. “I think the next stage is to pass the president’s budget,” he added.
It’s not clear how long a measureable turnaround could take, but Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to the president, echoed the president’s message. “If the American people want it [change] they need to stay engaged, ” she said.
Last Saturday President Barack Obama addressed the State of the Black Union symposium [via video-tape] held in Los Angeles. The event was hosted by Tavis Smiley, author and television host. Obama told those gathered, “Tough times for America often mean tougher times for African Americans. This recession has been no exception,” Obama said. “The unemployment rate among Black Americans is a full five points higher than the rate among Americans as a whole. At the same time, we know that government cannot and will not succeed alone. It will take all of us stepping up and doing our part.”
The February unemployment numbers when compared to a year ago show the largest annual jump since the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics began keeping track after World War III.
With all the gloom and doom in the economy, housing and unemployment, a recent poll conducted for Smiley’s annual symposium found African Americans more optimistic than their White counterparts.
Fifty-eight percent of Blacks said they expect their household financial situation to improve next year compared to only 30 percent of the general population.
When those polled were asked if their financial situation would worsen, 16 percent of African Americans believed their situation would; 29 percent of the general population anticipated more financial difficulty in 2010.
Smiley and economic experts attending the conference attribute the optimism by outlook could be related to “pride and confidence” in the first African-American president.
Emanuel defended the president’s ambitious agenda and noted the stimulus package will create jobs in urban areas where African Americans will benefit and job creation will come through small businesses and minority contracting.