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
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
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
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
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
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
Among the consequences Filion predicted
is a staggering poverty rate of 50percent for African
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. Click here
to contact Mr. Bloice.