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Report Confirms Black Male Employment Is Lacking

AFRO.com, News Report, James Wright Posted: Jun 24, 2009

African-American men are finding it harder to get a job during this recession and their prospects may not get better anytime soon.

Thats the conclusion of a report, Weathering the Storm: Black Male Employment in the Recession, released by the Center for American Progress, a Washington, D.C.-based think-tank, on Friday.

The recession is taking its toll on most Americans and has resulted in job losses not seen in almost 25 years, but Black men have felt its effects particularly hard, the report's author, Alexandra Cawthorne, said. Black men have long faced limited employment prospects and disproportionately high rates of unemployment. The current degree of job loss among Black men is particularly alarming.

Among the report's findings:

*Black men lead the unemployment surge, with an unemployment rate of 15.4 percent

*Over a third of young Black men aged 16 to 19 in the labor market are unemployed

*Eight percent of Black men have lost their jobs since November 2007

*Black men without criminal records tend to have a tougher time finding employment than White men who have been convicted by the criminal justice system.

Those figures stand out further when compared to job prospects for White men. While the unemployment rate for Black males is 15.4 percent, it is only 5.5 percent for White males.

Whites males age 16 to 19 also do significantly better in the recession compared to their Black counterparts, with 17 percent unemployed and with median earnings of $55,000, compared to $35,000 for Black males.

It is a fact that a Black man earn 70 cents to every dollar of a White man," said Cawthorne.

Algeron Austin, Director of the Race, Ethnicity and Economy Program at Washington's Economic Policy Institute, said that Black mens troubles in the labor market have had an negative impact on the economic viability of Black America. He said that Cawthorne's report has confirmed what he has known for some time.

Black communities suffer under a permanent recession, said Austin. It comes from a number of factors but Black men have problems finding jobs because of racial discrimination, issues with the criminal justice system and inadequate education, mainly a large number of high school dropouts.

Black men face other hurdles as they seek employment, such as dealing with cultural discrimination in the application process and having to deal with the credit industry.

A recent study examined the effect of a Black-sounding name like Jamal Jones or Tyrone Washington on receiving a positive response from employers, said Austin. Researchers sent out similar resumes with 'Black-sounding' and 'White-sounding' names to employers in Chicago and Boston. Resumes with 'White-sounding' names received 50 percent more callbacks for interviews.

Barbara Arnwine, executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said that the use of credit reports to determine employment has become a problem for Black men.

A story in {USA Today} said that 43 percent of employers check credit history for entry-level positions, said Arnwine. These are not positions for middle and upper management or even for jobs handling money: these are for entry-level jobs.

Arnwine said that 48 percent of Blacks have a negative credit history as opposed to 24 percent of Whites. She attributes the high negative credit ratings among Blacks to lack of financial education and poor employment prospects.

It is a dilemma for Black men, she said. They are not able to get a job to pay their creditors.

The report recommends certain steps that policymakers should make to help Black men in the labor market:

*Combat racial discrimination by employers;

*Modernize the unemployment insurance system;

*Support the Employee Free Choice Act, which allows workers the right to unionize much easier;

*Improve education and early links to the labor market;

*Support the creation of "green jobs" in low-income communities; and

*Develop comprehensive re-entry services for ex-offenders.

Arnwine said a bill that will be introduced in the U.S. Congress shortly, the Equal Employment for All Act of 2009, will level the employment field for people who cannot find work because of negative credit histories. Cawthorne said that solving the Black male unemployment problem will help the nation as a whole.

Racial equality and equal opportunity must be at the forefront of policies that will advance economic recovery and create jobs, she said. Policymakers should not only access the actual and anticipated effects of policies and budgets on disadvantaged communities like low-skilled Black men, but also identify ways to maximize equity and inclusion-especially in the context of the economic recovery.

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