Sluggish employment, economic woes plagued Blacks in 2013
6th January 2014 · 0 Comments
By Starla Muhammad
(Special to the NNPA from The Final Call) — Stagnation is how economist Dr. Algernon Austin summed up what Black Americans faced in the 2013 economy, with high jobless rates still the main culprit. The final U.S. jobs report released before the end of the year by the U.S. Department of Labor showed overall unemployment rates dropped to seven percent for November. For Blacks there was also a decline from 13.1 percent in October. But, despite the drop, the unemployment rate for Blacks was still 12.5 percent.
However the figures do not include those that have stopped looking for work due to frustration and long-term unemployment, meaning the figures are much higher. This dynamic continued to plague Black America throughout 2013.
“Many African Americans know if they’ve been actively looking for work for six months, a year and they know that there’s no work out there so they stop looking, they’re then not counted as unemployed,” said Dr. Austin, director of the Race, Ethnicity, and the Economy program at the Economic Policy Institute.
In 2013 the overall unemployment rate for the country averaged 7.4 percent from January through November, but for Black America, it was historic milestone in U.S. history.
While 50 years have passed since the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Justice, the economic situation for Black America in many cases remained unchanged or in some cases, became worse.
“Fifty years later, African Americans still lack full access to decent, wholesome, and safe housing, in large part because Black poverty remains high and is very concentrated,” Dr. Austin wrote in his June report, “The Unfinished March.”
In areas of wealth, income and housing several reports and studies released in 2013 outlined continuous areas of struggle and concern. Key issues noted in the 2013 State of the Dream study by United for a Fair Economy pointed out that between 2007 and 2010:
• Black families lost 27.1 percent of their average net worth
• Black families had a higher debt burden
• Black families had slightly more than $17,000 in retirement accounts compared to $109,000 for the average white family
• The average net worth of Blacks was $97,995 compared to $629,736 for whites
Blacks also had not rebounded as quickly or as well as other racial and ethnic groups from the foreclosure crisis or economic collapse noted the report, “The State of Housing in Black America” released in September by the National Association of Real Estate Brokers. Both adversely impacted wealth-building and well-being for Blacks.
“During the first quarter of 2013, the non-Hispanic white, African-American, and Latino homeownership rates were 73.4, 43.1, and 45.3 percent, respectively,” noted the report. The fourth quarter of 2007, when the recession was officially declared homeownership rates were at 74.9 for whites and 47.7 for Blacks. Those figures show the economic crises caused the greatest percentage point losses among Blacks (4.6 percentage points) and the smallest percentage point loss among non-Hispanic whites (1.5 percentage points),” it said.
The 2013 State of Black America released by the National Urban League pointed out that on average Black Americans enjoy less than three-fourths of the benefits and privileges offered to white Americans.
In early December demos Think Tank and the NAACP released “The Challenge of Credit Card Debt for the African American Middle Class” which noted that despite being no more likely to fall behind on credit card bills than whites, Blacks are more likely to be targeted by debt collectors.
Dr. Austin expects more of the same in terms of sluggish job growth and employment opportunities for Blacks in 2014. Even the types of jobs being created are “low wage jobs,” he said.
“When you have this type of labor market where people are high unemployment and low wages or low wage growth you’re not really going to see significant increases in people’s wealth,” said Dr. Austin. There was no change in the poverty rate for Blacks, another sign of stagnation, he added.
The Black middle class is also overrepresented in the public sector so the federal government shutdown that gripped the nation during the first two weeks of October adversely impacted Blacks.
Citing data from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, there may have been up to 150,000 Black federal employees furloughed during the shutdown, according to the independent, nonpartisan Center for American Progress.
Despite the hardships and bleak forecast, there were bright spots for Black America. The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation deposited $5 million in Black-owned banks. Also, the economic buying power of Blacks continued to increase to over an estimated $1.2 trillion.
Blacks are a large and growing economic power in the U.S. and that will increase over the next several decades as the population increases, surmised NAREB. Blacks currently make up 13.1 percent of the U.S. population. This does not include individuals that are Black in combination with another race or ethnicity.
“This proportion is expected to increase from 13.23 percent in 2015 to 14.71 percent in 2060; in case of African Americans with one race or in combination with other races, the proportion is projected to increase from 14.39 percent to 18.41 percent during the same time frame.”
Seeing the continued challenges Black America faced throughout the year, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam reintroduced Muhammad’s Economic Blueprint in 2013 as an avenue to combat the poverty and want in the Black community. The plan calls for 16 million Black wage earners to donate as little as 35 cents per week, $18.20 per year to economicblueprint.org. The monies donated will be used to purchase land and create jobs and industry. The Nation of Islam’s “do for self” program and history of teaching Blacks to not look to the U.S. government for jobs is an example of why the program is a practical and viable solution as Black America moves into 2014 and beyond.
This article originally published in the January 6, 2014 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.