As Jobs Crisis Wanes No Relief For Communities Of Color

As Jobs Crisis Wanes No Relief For Communities Of Color

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Things are getting better. There's no question about it. Unemployment in Inland Southern California declined to its lowest point of the year last month, but employers in the two-county area are still not hiring in large numbers, a state report released Friday found.

Black unemployment at staggering rates as jobs crisis wanes.

The jobless rate in Riverside and San Bernardino counties fell to 14.2 percent in April from an alltime high of 15 percent in March, the Employment Development Department reported. Statewide unemployment held steady at 12.6 percent. Economists say a big part of the decline locally is from discouraged workers who did not look for jobs and are not officially counted as unemployed.

Friday's announcement was welcome even if the gains turn out to be fragile or illusory. But for Blacks and Latinos there’s little reason to celebrate. Black unemployment remains at 16.5 percent rising from 15.8 in March. Black male unemployment sits at a whopping 17.6 percent. Blacks and Latinos continue to face barriers to equal employment and now, as the recession pushes states to make cuts in vital services and programs, the disparity grows.

“It’s very disappointing,” said Peter Edelman, a former Clinton administration official who directs the Center on Poverty, Inequality, and Public Policy at Georgetown University.

“While there have long been disparities in white and minority employment, Edelman said, the latest unemployment numbers from the Labor Department show that while “some white people got jobs, some Black people and Latinos actually fell behind more. As glimmers of a jobs recovery start to emerge, it’s clear that people of color are not getting hired.”

“We’re seeing a whole set of things happening in the recession that are making the inequity worse,” said Seth Wessler, a researcher at the Applied Research Center, a racial justice think tank in Oakland.

The recession has exacerbated disparities. In the face of budget deficits, cities and states are making cuts to transportation and public welfare programs, the very services that many people of color rely on to get to work in the first place, Wessler said.

“No celebrating here,” says Zahira Weaver. The Riverside resident flipped through her wallet and pulled out a photograph: “That’s me,” she says “at my college graduation… in 2009. I’ve got the school loan folks breathing down my neck, a lot of job rejections, but no work.”

To read headlines gloating over the shrinking unemployment rate, says Weaver is a sad reminder of what most Americans take for granted… “how ordinary high Black unemployment has become.”

In the year since Weaver, 23, graduated from UCLA, the budding commercial artist/illustrator says she’s applied to countless jobs. During an interview at an Orange County publishing firm the employer told her that within one hour of posting a job for a magazine graphic artist on Craigslist, the company had received over 4,000 replies.

“He suggested my skills might be better suited for the Los Angeles Sentinel or some other periodical that covers minority issues.

Employers aren’t looking for someone like me,” said Weaver who is African American.

Yet Weaver may be one of the lucky ones. She lives at home with her parents in Riverside. And while the pressure and difficulty of finding a job have caused numerous arguments with her parents, she says she’s been thankful for their support.

Weaver reluctantly returned to the unemployment line this week after a six month hiatus.

“ I’m competing with graduates who are willing to take a part-time job stocking books at Barnes & Noble,” she said. The national unemployment rate rose to 9.9 percent in April from 9.7 percent in March. The overall jobless rate increased because the number of re-entrants to the labor force rose by 195,000.

Some members of the Congressional Black Caucus have long charged that the Obama administration has been reluctant to address racial inequities in hiring.

Census data show communities of color did not recover from the last recession almost a decade ago.

Experts say without targeted efforts Blacks and Latinos will be the last to pop the champagne cork in this down economy.