FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Deepening Recession in Black America

by SALVATORE BABONES

The recession has been hard on everyone. Tens of millions of people lost their jobs. Many of those who didn’t lose their jobs suffered salary cuts. Retirement savings and home values have plummeted.

Even people who have kept their jobs and homes have had to worry about the possibility of losing them.

But the recession is officially over. In fact, it has officially been over since June 2009, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research. Last month, we entered the fourth year of recovery.

The reality, though, is that in America there are two of everything. There are white and black schools. There are white and black stores. There are even white and black rappers.

And of course there have been two recessions: a White Recession and a Black Recession.

The White Recession was sharp and painful, but soon over. White America is slowly returning to normal. It’s a shade poorer normal to be sure, but normal all the same.

For white men, October 2009 brought the highest unemployment rate of the past sixty years. White male unemployment maxed out at 9.7 percent. It’s now stable at 6.9 percent.

This rate is still too high, but it’s not catastrophic – unless you’re one of the 6.9 percent.

The white female unemployment rate is now even lower: just 6.8 percent. Throughout the recession, it never rose above 7.3 percent.

The White Economy is weak, but it’s been weak for a long time. It’s been dragged down by long-term wage stagnation, cuts in government professional employment and declining union membership.

The Black Economy, on the other hand, is still in full-blown recession.

The Black Recession has now dragged on for four years, if not forty. Black male unemployment is 14.8 percent, and the current trend is up.

The unemployment rate for black men maxed out at 18.0 percent in August 2011, but even that wasn’t a record. In the early 1980s recession, the black male unemployment rate went over 20 percent.

The black male unemployment rate has now been over 10 percent for 49 consecutive months. But that’s normal. It’s been over 10 percent in more than half of all months on record since measurement began in 1972.

That 10 percent figure is for men who are in the labor market and actively seeking work. It doesn’t include, for example, the 5 percent of black men who are currently in jail.

Black women also face serious challenges in the job market. The black female unemployment rate is 11.5 percent, down from a recession high of 13.9 percent in December 2011.

The unemployment rate for black women has now been over 10 percent for 42 consecutive months. Like the black male unemployment rate, it’s been over 10.5 percent for over half of all months on record since 1972.

The Black Recession is the proverbial elephant in the room. No one talks about it, but it’s there. It’s been there for four years, or forty years, if it’s been there a day.

In America’s cultural and racial climate, it’s understandable that President Obama prefers to avoid the subject of the Black Recession. But as he is fond of pointing out, he is the president of all Americans, and that includes black Americans.

Mr. President, the elephant in the room is not a Republican. It’s long past time to put an end to the Black Recession. Above all, that means jobs. If the private sector won’t provide them, the government should. That means you.

We can’t have a jobs program that’s just for blacks. But we can have a jobs programs that provides work with dignity to all Americans and that includes black Americans. Roosevelt did it. Johnson did it. Obama can do it.

Mr. President, put America back to work.

Salvatore Babones is a senior lecturer in sociology and social policy at the University of Sydney and an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS). He is the author of the forthcoming book, Benchmarking America. He can be reached through his website.

This column was distributed by OtherWords.

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
May 27, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Silencing America as It Prepares for War
Rob Urie
By the Numbers: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are Fringe Candidates
Paul Street
Feel the Hate
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
Basic Income Gathers Steam Across Europe
Andrew Levine
Hillary’s Gun Gambit
Jeffrey St. Clair
Hand Jobs: Heidegger, Hitler and Trump
S. Brian Willson
Remembering All the Deaths From All of Our Wars
Dave Lindorff
With Clinton’s Nixonian Email Scandal Deepening, Sanders Must Demand Answers
Pete Dolack
Millions for the Boss, Cuts for You!
Peter Lee
To Hell and Back: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Gunnar Westberg
Close Calls: We Were Much Closer to Nuclear Annihilation Than We Ever Knew
Karl Grossman
Long Island as a Nuclear Park
Binoy Kampmark
Sweden’s Assange Problem: The District Court Ruling
Robert Fisk
Why the US Dropped Its Demand That Assad Must Go
Martha Rosenberg – Ronnie Cummins
Bayer and Monsanto: a Marriage Made in Hell
Brian Cloughley
Pivoting to War
Stavros Mavroudeas
Blatant Hypocrisy: the Latest Late-Night Bailout of Greece
Arun Gupta
A War of All Against All
Dan Kovalik
NPR, Yemen & the Downplaying of U.S. War Crimes
Randy Blazak
Thugs, Bullies, and Donald J. Trump: The Perils of Wounded Masculinity
Murray Dobbin
Are We Witnessing the Beginning of the End of Globalization?
Daniel Falcone
Urban Injustice: How Ghettos Happen, an Interview with David Hilfiker
Gloria Jimenez
In Honduras, USAID Was in Bed with Berta Cáceres’ Accused Killers
Kent Paterson
The Old Braceros Fight On
Lawrence Reichard
The Seemingly Endless Indignities of Air Travel: Report from the Losing Side of Class Warfare
Peter Berllios
Bernie and Utopia
Stan Cox – Paul Cox
Indonesia’s Unnatural Mud Disaster Turns Ten
Linda Pentz Gunter
Obama in Hiroshima: Time to Say “Sorry” and “Ban the Bomb”
George Souvlis
How the West Came to Rule: an Interview with Alexander Anievas
Julian Vigo
The Government and Your i-Phone: the Latest Threat to Privacy
Stratos Ramoglou
Why the Greek Economic Crisis Won’t be Ending Anytime Soon
David Price
The 2016 Tour of California: Notes on a Big Pharma Bike Race
Dmitry Mickiewicz
Barbarous Deforestation in Western Ukraine
Rev. William Alberts
The United Methodist Church Up to Its Old Trick: Kicking the Can of Real Inclusion Down the Road
Patrick Bond
Imperialism’s Junior Partners
Mark Hand
The Trouble with Fracking Fiction
Priti Gulati Cox
Broken Green: Two Years of Modi
Marc Levy
Sitrep: Hometown Unwelcomes Vietnam Vets
Lorenzo Raymond
Why Nonviolent Civil Resistance Doesn’t Work (Unless You Have Lots of Bombs)
Ed Kemmick
New Book Full of Amazing Montana Women
Michael Dickinson
Bye Bye Legal High in Backwards Britain
Missy Comley Beattie
Wanted: Daddy or Mommy in Chief
Ed Meek
The Republic of Fear
Charles R. Larson
Russian Women, Then and Now
David Yearsley
Elgar’s Hegemony: the Pomp of Empire
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail