[Marxism] Half of NYC Black men are jobless

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Sat Feb 28 10:02:13 MST 2004

Nearly Half of Black Men Found Jobless

Published: February 28, 2004 New York Times

It is well known that the unemployment rate in New York City rose
sharply during the recent recession. It is also understood that the
increase was worse for men than for women, and especially bad for black
men. But a new study examining trends in joblessness in the city since
2000 suggests that by 2003, nearly one of every two black men between 16
and 64 was not working.

The study, by the Community Service Society, a nonprofit group that
serves the poor, is based on data from the federal Bureau of Labor
Statistics and focuses on the so-called employment-population ratio -
the fraction of the working-age population with a paid job - in addition
to the more familiar unemployment rate, the percentage of the labor
force actively looking for work.

Mark Levitan, the report's author, found that just 51.8 percent of black
men ages 16 to 64 held jobs in New York City in 2003. The rate for white
men was 75.7 percent; for Hispanic men, 65.7; and for black women, 57.1.
The employment-population ratio for black men was the lowest for the
period Mr. Levitan has studied, which goes back to 1979. 

"We're left with a very big question,'' Mr. Levitan, a senior policy
analyst with the society, said in an interview. "As the economy
recovers, will we see a rise in employment among black men in tandem
with the rise in employment of city residents generally? In other words,
is this fundamentally a cyclical problem or is it more deeply
structural? I fear that it is more deeply structural."

Researchers who have studied joblessness said Mr. Levitan's findings
were consistent with trends among disadvantaged men, both black and
white, in other Northern and Midwestern cities where manufacturing jobs
have disappeared in recent decades. Some said factors that might have
made the problem worse since 2000 could include welfare reform, high
rates of incarceration producing gaps in job histories, and competition
with immigrants for low-skill jobs.

Lawrence M. Mead, a professor of political science at New York
University who specializes in social policy and welfare reform, said
that labor force participation - job-holding and job-seeking - among
disadvantaged men had been declining nationwide and that New York City
had long had "a lower work level" than elsewhere. Others said a similar
racial gap in male employment had been seen in Midwestern and Central

"You're really talking about a long-term problem among low-skilled,
disadvantaged men,'' Professor Mead said. "Blacks are disproportionately
disadvantaged. You're seeing this tendency to drop out. It's very
serious and nobody has an answer.''

Mindy Tarlow, executive director of the Center for Employment
Opportunities, an employment program for men and women with criminal
records that is based in Lower Manhattan, said her agency's success rate
in placing clients in unsubsidized jobs had dropped to 55 percent from
65 percent between 2000 and 2003. She attributed the change not only to
the recession but also to women coming off welfare and looking for work.
"I do know there are more people in the low-skill job market competing
for the same low-skill jobs,'' she said. "In some ways, the low-skill
job market has become more competitive. Welfare reform came into law in
1996, but I think the impact was starting to be felt around 2000, maybe

David R. Howell, a labor economist and professor at New School
University, said service jobs were particularly hard for black men to
get. He said studies had shown that employers "are particularly
uninterested in hiring black men for jobs that require customer or
client contact, for whatever reason.'' They tend to give preference to
women, he said.

Mr. Levitan used data from the Current Population Survey, a monthly
survey done by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on a nationwide basis. He
averaged the 12 monthly figures for New York City for each year. He said
he used the employment-population ratio because the unemployment rate,
which counts only people who are actively looking for a job, did not
capture those too discouraged to keep trying.

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