The Disparate Impact Of Job Losses On Minorities

One of the less reported angles of the current recession is the way in which the job losses are hitting men and minorities the hardest. So I was glad to see this piece in the New York Times today, highlighting a new report from the New York City comptroller’s office:

While unemployment rose steadily for white New Yorkers from the first quarter of 2008 through the first three months of this year, the number of unemployed blacks in the city rose four times as fast, according to a report to be released on Monday by the city comptroller’s office. By the end of March, there were about 80,000 more unemployed blacks than whites, according to the report, even though there are roughly 1.5 million more whites than blacks here.

While not as extreme as in New York, this disparity has been manifesting itself all over the country:

The consensus from economists is that the massive job losses in the manufacturing, construction, and retail sectors are disproportionately hitting minority populations (which also explains why men account for 74.2 percent of the job losses during the recession). In the latest jobs report, 136,000 of the lost jobs were on factory payrolls, while payrolls at builders fell by 79,000 and service industries subtracted 244,000 workers.


There is no obvious remedy here, but since the economic stimulus package focused its job creating measures on the same sectors that are currently hemorrhaging jobs, there will hopefully be some slow-down in the rising minority unemployment rate. Taking a different tact, William Thompson Jr., Comptroller of the City of New York, used his office’s report to take New York to task for providing inadequate unemployment benefits:

Until they are re-employed, this group is the most economically vulnerable and potentially most in need of public income support programs. One might think that New York, with its reputation as a bastion of liberalism and generosity towards the poor, would provide a better cushion for its unemployed residents than many of our sister states. In fact, maximum benefit levels in New York State are lower than in adjoining states and even lower than benefits in some states with a much lower cost of living, such as Kansas and North Carolina.

As Green for All also pointed out, investments in clean energy from the stimulus package and other legislation “will create pathways to prosperity for millions of Americans, especially in low-income communities and communities of color.”