Monday, February 2, 2004

Report shows labor market unbalanced

A report released last week from the National Urban League paints a disturbing portrait of work for African-Americans.

• The December 2003 unemployment rate for African-Americans of 10.3 percent, sustained in double digits for the past 14 months, makes the current recession the worst turnabout in the labor market faced by African Americans in more than 25 years.

• College-educated and highly skilled African-American workers suffered greater job losses than their white counterparts, as the number and proportionate share of jobs held by African-American managers has declined. The unemployment rate for blacks with college education has been at least one and a-half times that of their white counterparts.

• The net loss of payroll jobs has been highly concentrated in manufacturing. In February 2001 the share of whites in manufacturing was higher than the share of African Americans: 14.6 percent vs. 13.4 percent. While white workers reported some gains in manufacturing employment between July-December 2003, the share of African Americans in manufacturing fell to 10.2 percent by December.

• Some 70 percent of workers receiving the extension of unemployment benefits are dropping off benefit roles because their time has elapsed, not because they are finding jobs. Minorities represent a higher share of long-term unemployed: 29.5 percent African-Americans versus 21.1 percent whites.

• Adjusting for inflation, total wage and salary income has fallen 0.9 percent over the first 31 months since the recession started.

The report was prepared by Cheryl Hill Lee, research analyst, and William E. Spriggs, Ph.D., director of National Urban League Institute for Opportunity and Equality, Washington D.C.

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