While the country struggles with double-digit unemployment Black males face jobless rates that are twice as bad.
One in five Black men over 20 are without a job, according to figures released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics earlier this month.
The exceptionally high rates of Black male joblessness have been above the so- called “recession rate” of 8 percent since 2001 but now, at close to 20 percent, are comparable to what the nation as a whole hasn’t suffered since the Great Depression of the early 1930’s.
“There has been a consistent pattern of Black male unemployment rates that are twice the unemployment rates for whites, even in good or bad times,” said Dr. Rodney Green, chairman of the economics department of Howard University, earlier this month.
Green said this is due not just to continuing discrimination against Black males in the labor market but also to greater job loss in industries that employ high numbers of African Americans including construction, manufacturing and retail jobs.
Experts note that “last hired, first fired” is also very much a factor for Black and Latino workers who typically get hit very hard early in any recession and are much slower to recover when the economiy finally gets going again.
On the issue of why men of all races appear to be getting hit harder than women in this particular recession economists say that part of the explanation is that loss of jobs is very severe in industries that have been male-dominated including finance and manufacturing.
Roderick Harrison, a fellow at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, said in a phone interview that education is a key factor in any plan to deal with the problem of Black male unemployment, particularly during what many say will continue to be a “jobless recovery.”
“The major disadvantage that Black males, and to a lesser extent, females face can only be addressed by closing the education gap,” he said.
Harrison also said it is necessary to organize politically against unemployment and for job creation, in general.
He called for a “sharper struggle against employers who think nothing of pushing people out of jobs while they give themselves bigger bonuses.”