No Economic Recovery in Sight for Communities of Color

We are 7.5 million jobs below where we were at the start of the recession in December 2007. Since that time the labor market grew by about 3.5 million workers. Thus, to get back to where we were before the start of the recession we would need 11 million jobs.

For many communities of color, however, December 2007 was not a period of healthy labor market conditions. It was a typical period of relatively high joblessness. For people of color to experience an employment situation equivalent to whites in December 2007, they would need more jobs above the 11 million. Specifically, Latinos would need an additional 400,000 jobs to have an unemployment rate equal to whites in December 2007. Blacks would need about 2 million jobs to lift their low employment rate (or employment-to-population ratio) up to where it should be. American Indians would need about 200,000 jobs to lift their low employment rate up to a healthy rate. Thus, people of color need roughly 2.6 million jobs more on top of the 11 million for them to experience healthy economic conditions.

In total, therefore, we are nearly 14 million jobs short of a labor market that provides jobs for all communities equitably.

Sadly, few of our elected officials are behaving as if we are facing a massive jobs crisis. If job creation were number one on their agenda, we would be able to point to bold new initiatives for job creation. We cannot.
Last month the Bureau of Labor Statistics issued a report on people who have been unemployed for a year or more. Prior to Great Recession, someone who was unemployed for 6 months or more was considered to be unemployed for a long time. Now we can measure long-term unemployment in periods of 12 months or more.

In the second quarter of this year, there were 4.5 million people who were looking for work for a year or more. 3 million of them were white. One million were black. Three quarters of a million were Latinos. Two hundred thousand were Asian. 

Asian Americans currently have the highest rates of long-term unemployment, just edging past blacks. Of all of the Asian Americans who were unemployed in the second quarter of this year, 39% were unemployed for a year or more. For African Americans it was 37%.

How much longer will these people have to go without work? 

Wall Street has seen an economic recovery, when will Main Street see a real economic recovery?

What are our elected-officials’ plans for addressing this problem?

Right now, there are no answers to these questions.

By the first half of this year, several economists concluded that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act had created over 2 million jobs. This job creation prevented the Great Recession from being a Great Depression. This job creation was vital, but we have not truly recovered yet. 

We need about 14 million jobs to achieve full employment in all American communities—including communities of color. Without additional economic stimulus many millions will continue to look, month after month, for jobs that simply do not exist.