The recession and job market has been difficult for everyone, that goes without question. However, economists and government data show that for blacks, the last two years after the recession have been most difficult in terms of unemployment and layoffs in the public sector. Especially when one in five black workers have jobs in the public sector and are one-third more likely than whites to be employed in the public sector, reports the New York Times.
According to the article, jobless rates among blacks since the end of the recession in 2009 have been double those of whites. Statistics from October of this year show the black unemployment rate at 15.1 percent, compared with 8 percent for whites. Furthermore, last summer the black unemployment rate rose to 16.7 percent, the highest level since 1984. With this data, many have posed the question: why? According to economists there are a number of reasons why the jobless rates are disproportionate including continuing discrimination, lower educational levels and living in areas that have been very slow to recover economically.
The Times spotlights a particular man living in Chicago that recently lost his job with the Chicago Transit Authority where he was a bus driver. Don Buckley, 34, lost his job nearly two years ago and has yet to find a job since. He went from living in his own home to moving into the basement of his mother’s home with his fiance and two daughters. On top of that, all of his savings-a total of $27,000- are now gone. “I was the kind of person who put away for a rainy day,” he said recently. “It’s flooding now.” The article highlights that in terms of public sector jobs, bus drivers in Chicago have been hit the hardest while police officers and firefighters in Cleveland and nurses and doctors in Florida have taken the hit as well. As a result there are now fewer black workers who own homes and have a stable job.
As the article reports, “African-Americans in the public sector earn 25 percent more than other black workers, and the jobs have long been regarded as respectable, stable work for college graduates, allowing many to buy homes, send children to private colleges and achieve other markers of middle-class life that were otherwise closed to them.” But in the last year alone the private sector has added 1.6 million jobs and the public sector has diminished close to 142,000 positions, and with blacks being a large amount of public sector workers, they have taken the hit the hardest. What’s more difficult is that the layoffs are not predicted to end anytime soon. According to the article, the United States Postal Service is thinking to eliminate 220,000 positions in order to “stay solvent”; 25 percent of USPS workers are black.
Pamela Sparks, 49, a 25-year Postal Service veteran in Baltimore discusses in the article how difficult it would be if she lost her job. “With our whole family working for the Post Office, it would be hard to help each other out because we’d all be out of work,” Ms. Sparks said. “It has afforded us a lot of things we needed to survive really, but this is one of the drawbacks.”
For the many black workers that have lost their jobs, the hope of finding a new one is difficult to keep alive. “I was living the American dream — my version of the American dream,” said Buckley of his $23.76-an-hour job in the Times article. “Then it crumbled. They get you used to having things and then they take them away, and you realize how lucky you were.”