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Thursday, Dec 10, 2009, 11:12 am

Blacks, Latinos Bear Brunt of Joblessness

BY Rose Arrieta

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Despite the reported budding economic recovery, it's clear that workers are being left behind.

Last month the unemployment rate dropped slightly to 10.0 percent from October’s rate of 10.2 percent. But the Department of Labor reports that the real unemployment rate for November hovered at 17.2 percent. (The agency takes into account underemployed workers, and those who haven’t sought work in the past four weeks.) The total number of jobs that lost during this recession amount to 7.2 million. 
 
But for almost a year, double-digit unemployment has been a reality for Latinos and blacks. (Check out Working ITT contributor Stephen Franklin's piece on black, urban joblessness from last week.) They are feeling the brunt of the unemployment rate, experiencing official jobless rates of 12.7 percent and 15.7 percent, respectively.

“Despite these disparities in joblessness, many minority communities have not benefited equitably from government relief efforts,” said Janet Murguia, president of National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the largest Latino civil rights and advocacy organization in the U.S.

Fewer than 30 percent of Latinos say they see any impact in their communities from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, passed in February of this year. The $787 billion piece of legislation promised to create 3.7 million jobs by 2010. So far about 1 million jobs have been created.

“Clearly, aid has not trickled down to some of the hardest-hit workers and families," Murguia stated. "Unless policymakers pay greater attention to equity and fairness through direct job creation, it’s unlikely that employment will trickle down either.”

NCLR advocates the creation of jobs in the hardest-hit neighborhoods by working with local nonprofit organizations to help identify community needs and hire local people to repair and maintain buildings, help at community centers and take care of children and the elderly.

The organization is calling on Congress to dedicate $1 billion to improve neglected properties, and do so by hiring local workers to repair abandoned and foreclosed homes.

“President Obama...should remain open to a range of ideas about how to get people working again. More importantly, he should listen to the struggles of the people he meets. Their stories must remind him of his ability—and his responsibility—to ensure that all Americans can contribute to a full economic recovery,” Murguia said.

On December 3, President Obama faced criticism from the 43-member Congressional Black Caucus, who told him he was not doing enough to help African Americans thorough the bleak economy.

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), who represents one of the nation’s poorest districts, stated in the Dec. 2 edition of The Hill, “We have not been forceful enough in our efforts to protect the most vulnerable of our population,” adding,  “We can no longer afford for our public policy to be defined by the worldview of Wall Street.”

Said CBD chairwoman Barbara Lee in a statement:

The current economic crisis is having a devastating effect on millions of Americans and has resulted in record levels of unemployment. Communities of color, particularly African Americans and Latinos, are experiencing the worst of these job losses.

Kevin Gray, author of the new book The Decline of Black Politics: From Malcom X to Barack Obama, said on KPFA-FM Dec. 7 that since Obama has been in office the overall unemployment rate has almost doubled among African Americans:

In the waning months of Bush’s presidency, going into Obama’s inauguration, the unemployment rate was 9 percent for blacks, and now it’s 17 percent. Some folk would argue it might be 30 percent. It’s pretty tough. So, we can cheer that .2 percent if we have a twisted sense of humor, but there are some severe social and economic problems going on in the black community that somebody needs to pay attention to.


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Rose Arrieta was born and raised in Los Angeles. She has worked in print, broadcast and radio, both mainstream and community oriented—including being a former editor of the Bay Area’s independent community bilingual biweekly El Tecolote. She currently lives in San Francisco, where she is a freelance journalist writing for a variety of outlets on social justice issues.

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