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PORTSIDE  October 2010, Week 4

PORTSIDE October 2010, Week 4

Subject:

African American Youth Joblessness and the "New Normal"

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Date:

Sat, 23 Oct 2010 15:23:05 -0400

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Left Margin

African American Youth Joblessness and the "New Normal"

By Carl Bloice - BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board
Black Commentator
October 21, 2010

http://www.blackcommentator.com/398/398_lm_joblessness_new_normal.php

It's possible that I just didn't see it but one of the
most significant and alarming statistic in the nation's
September employment report seems to have gone mostly
unnoticed. So here it is. The unemployment rate for
each of the major demographic groups remained about the
same last month, some even declined a tad. However, the
seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for African
Americans between the ages of 16 and 19 reached 49
percent, up from 45.4 percent in August and 41.7
percent for the same period last year.

It used to be that when people concerned with the
matter commented on the black teenage jobless rate,
they would put in a line about half, or nearly half, of
the young people were without work in major urban
centers. Now it's the case from Boston to Bakersfield.
Is this the "new normal" we hear so much about?

Pointing to a somewhat different set of statistics,
here is what David Rosnick of the Center for Economic
and Policy Research wrote October 8:

    The economy lost 95,000 jobs in September - 77,000
    of which were temporary Census positions - while
    the unemployment rate held at 9.6 percent.
    Including downward revisions in payroll employment
    for July and August, there are 110,000 fewer jobs
    than reported one month ago.

    Though the overall rate of unemployment did not
    change in September, different populations were not
    similarly affected by employment changes. The
    employment-to-population ratio was unchanged at
    58.5 percent. While white adults saw relatively
    little change in their EPOPs (-0.1 percentage
    points for men, 0.1 percentage points for women),
    the EPOP for black men aged 20 and over fell 0.5
    percentage points in the month and 2.6 percentage
    points for African-American teens.

    The fall in the latter is particularly striking as
    only 16.2 percent of black teens were employed as
    recently as May. Ten years ago, 29.5 percent of
    black teens were employed compared to 11.7 percent
    in September.

This cannot be considered acceptable. The Congress and
the White House should be told that this is
unacceptable. Those people out there trying to rally
the "hip-hop vote" ought to take the lead in saying
this situation cannot endure.

There is already far too much pain and economic
insecurity in the African American community which has
taken a big hit economically because of the system's
most recent crisis. If it remains almost impossible for
a couple of generations of young women and men to earn
a decent living, it is calamitous for black people and
the country. They cannot become the personification of
the "new normal."

And we don't need to hear anymore misleading claims
that these young people have been "left behind by
history," victims of technology and globalization.
Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke said the other day
that the country's current jobless level reflects the
state of the economy, is not what some refer to as
"structural" and that little of it can be traced to
people having the wrong skills or being in the wrong
location. This view was echoed last week by labor
market expert Peter Diamond, recipient of this year's
Nobel Prize for Economics.

The New York Times said editorially last Sunday that as
soon as the November election is over the President
"needs to fight harder for big stimulus projects - in
infrastructure or alternative energy. He has to keep
pushing until Congress and the public understand that
without more stimulus the best that can happen will be
years of only limping along." For these unemployed
minority youth it's much worse than limping along.

Last week, President Obama took questions from an
audience of young people, in person and by way of
Twitter, during a session streamed live on the Web. At
one point a young black man complained that despite all
the government recent spending "our unemployment rate
still rises" and that even though he is a college
graduate he's having trouble finding a job. The
President responded with his now stock answer: the jobs
were lost before I was elected and the Administration
kept the country out of a real depression. These kids
know what a real depression feels like. It's having
empty pockets in a madly consumerist society. It's
being unable to plan for a family and things like
having children and sending them to school.

The question is where do we go from here?

The President recently laid out a proposal for a
moderate stimulus program involving a reasonable
project to see to the country's real infrastructure
needs. But we didn't hear much about it after that and
the trifling Congress adjourned to go home and try to
save their collective butts.

At the beginning of the year, the Economic Policy
Institute projected that unemployment for African
Americans would reach a 25-year high of 17.2 percent
this year with the rates in five states exceeding 20
percent. Three quarters into the year it stands at 16.1
percent, up from 15.5 percent a year ago. "These
sobering data show us that the nation must do more to
address the ongoing human tragedy brought on by this
recession," EPI researcher Kai Filion commented at the
time. "There is no reason why we should tolerate such
outcomes - elected officials can and must put millions
of Americans back to work with bold, targeted job
creation policies."

Among the consequences Filion predicted is a staggering
poverty rate of 50percent for African American
children.

When the International Monetary Fund met in Washington
October 9, its managing director, Dominique Strauss-
Kahn, issued a sobering warning. "We face the risk of a
lost generation," he said. "When you lose your job,
your health is likely to be worse. When you lose your
job, the education of your children is likely to be
worse. When you lose your job, social stability is
likely to be worse - which threatens democracy and even
peace. So we shouldn't fool ourselves. We are not out
of the woods yet. And for the man in the street, a
recovery without jobs doesn't mean much."
_________________

BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board member Carl Bloice
is a writer in San Francisco, a member of the National
Coordinating Committee of the Committees of
Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism and formerly
worked for a healthcare union.

_____________________________________________

Portside aims to provide material of interest
to people on the left that will help them to
interpret the world and to change it.

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