African Americans are experiencing the sharpest edge of layoffs of government and other public workers across the country. The worst of these job cuts were at first avoided by the Obama administration’s federal stimulus package that was designed to prevent state and local layoffs.
Black public workers are one-third more likely to be laid off than their white counterparts, according to a recent article in the New York Times.
The public sector is the largest employer of Black men and the 2nd largest employer of Black women, according to a recent study by the University of California Berkley Center for Labor Research and Education. It is “the single most important source of employment for African Americans,” according to Steven Pitts, author of the study. About one in five African Americans have government jobs. By comparison, 14.6 percent of whites and 11 percent of Hispanics work in the public sector.
Because of greater unionization and, until now, greater job stability, public sector workers such as, postal employees, police, teachers and health care workers have afforded the Black community greater measures of wage equality and upward mobility than in the private capitalist economy.
Almost half a million state and city employees have been laid off since 2009. Black unemployment, though experiencing a slight dip in October, remains over 15 percent, twice the national average.
The Congressional Black Caucus, during the summer of 2011, held a series of jobs fairs and public hearings on the unemployment crisis.
In September President Obama unveiled the American Jobs Act, to address the national jobs crisis. Republicans have repeatedly blocked every attempt to have the bill passed.
President Obama, at a November White House policy conference, the first of its kind dealing with the black community, took note of the unique challenges confronting African Americans regarding employment. He stressed the effects of the recession on workers generally and black workers in particular.
The Great Recession caused the greatest wealth loss among Black and Latino homeowners in U.S. history. Both groups, along with senior citizens, were special targets of banks and mortgage companies offering sub-prime loans.
Loss of tax revenues have added to the crisis, causing city and state government budget shortfalls, prompting additional layoffs, placing undue stress on already overburdened black communities and their workers. “The central role played by government employment in black communities is hard to overstate. African-Americans in the public sector earn 25 percent more than other black workers,” writes the New York Times.