The lead story in this morning’s L.A. Times provides another stark illustration of how the cumulative weight of centuries of racial discrimination continue to profoundly impact the lives of millions of black Americans.

The story, “Blacks lose ground in job slump,” reports that in February, while the national unemployment rate was 8.1%, for blacks that figure was 13.4% … and for black males, 16.3%.

The article seems to have been intended to report on the February jobs figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, focusing on the rise in unemployment in California to 10.5%, well above the national average. However, as the headline indicates, the Times decided to emphasize the stunning national figures for black workers, noting that black unemployment “has reached levels not seen in decades.”

There is nothing new in the fact that unemployment rates for black workers are higher than those for white workers, or that black workers are particularly hard-hit during a recession. The immediate causes of this phenomenon are also not simple, and are not primarily driven by overt racism or even subtle racial bias among employers.

However, these figures are a grim reminder that for a variety of reasons, the impact of slavery and subsequent generations of Jim Crow discrimination continue to impact the black population of this country. Black communities often face challenges with education, job training, and other infrastructure issues, as well as higher rates of poverty and incarceration. Beyond this, because of generations of lack of opportunity, black families are, on average, less able to pass along critical advantages to their children, in areas like education, financial resources, and social capital for finding jobs and advancing in a career.

The article details staggering job losses in blue-collar industries which employ many black workers, such as the auto industry and transportation, and in retail, services and manufacturing in general. The story also suggests that the recession is beginning to significantly impact the black middle class, with job losses in areas like public education and government services:

Now layoffs are beginning to reach a once fast-growing cohort of black professionals, managers and government workers, including many who overcame discrimination and limited economic and educational opportunities to win quality jobs.

4 Responses to “Black unemployment rates soar”

  1. Duke says:

    Mr. Obama is doing exactly what us white folks want. He is not creating jobs for black men and could care less. Black men have drugs to sell. It’s your career model right bros? Mr. Obama is creating jobs only for white folks and illegal aliens. Thanks man. Unless black men are willing to rise up and organize they can forget about work in America. Black men don’t help other black men. Obama is demonstrating this very nicely. So why should Obama and guys like me help?

  2. James says:

    Duke, I refuse to censor the comments on this web site based merely on erroneous assumptions or poor reasoning.

    However, the racial assumptions in your comment are such that I wouldn't even know where to begin to address what you've said. I suspect that's fine with you, as I can only imagine that these statements are intended to inflame, rather than to inform or to open a dialogue.

  3. Darla says:

    It's a shame what's going on…however in no way would I blame it on our President. Remember, he inherited this mess. As far as African Americans getting jobs, we know who is in charge of that too. Look at this as an opportunity to start a new company, Mr. Obama has set up a lot of grants and programs to help you do that. Get out there and ask questions and find out how you can get some of it. Its available! So is grants for retraining yourself for the new jobs of the future. You can do it!

  4. The recession and the growing racial divide | The Living Consequences says:

    […] an op-ed in this morning’s New York Times in which they make the case, which I have explored previously, that the recession has been especially hard on black […]

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