- Faith & Family
As most readers are aware, the magnitude of the unemployment challenge continues to increase with each passing month. The latest figure for U.S. unemployment was 9 percent, which meant that, officially, 13.9 percent of all Americans were unemployed. 5.8 million of these folks, or 42 percent of the unemployed have been without work for more than 27 weeks, or half a year. The average unemployed person has been out of work for 39 weeks.
But these data ignore the reality of our nation’s unemployment. When those marginally attached to the labor force and those working part time who want full time work are included as unemployed, the rate for all Americans soars to 16.2 percent. That means that one-in-six Americans are unemployed.
The situation is far more severe in the Black community, where the unemployment rate is 15.1 percent. Adding those marginally attached to the labor force and those working part time who want full time work would change the unemployment rate for Blacks to 27.2 percent. Black men over 20, with an official unemployment rate of 16.2 percent, actually experience unemployment at the 30 percent rate. In some of our nation’s largest cities, half of all Black men do not have work. Overall, the employment population ratio for adult Black men is 57.4 percent, a full 10 percent below the same rate for white men. This means we don’t just face a challenge — we are facing a crisis.
What are the solutions? Not only must the federal government be involved in job creation, but the private sector must be offered incentives to be part of this solution. We have a rich tradition of federal involvement in job creation, ranging from the Depression era Works Progress Administration (WPA) to the JTPA (Jobs Training Partnership Act) of the 1980s. There are unmet needs in public infrastructure, in health care and in social services. Many will ask where the money will come from to create jobs, especially as Congress grapples with debt ceiling related issues. There is overwhelming evidence that a country does not work its way through a recession by cutting employment or cutting programs. If cuts are necessary, then a tax increase to put America back to work would be in order. But it may be necessary to consider a special appropriation directed to job creation. Our nation’s future depends on it.
Job creation is only the first step for securing America’s future. We also have to look at the issue of workforce readiness and job preparation. Our nation is losing ground and losing our leadership status internationally because we are neither generating jobs nor investing in the education that will prepare the workforce of the future. I realize that these are trying times but innovation often emerges from trying times. We can create jobs at a modest cost and improve communities along the way. We can support higher education, especially for the underserved. We can connect the public and private sectors with tax incentives to encourage business to employ those who have been out of work. Finally, we can encourage entrepreneurship by strengthening new businesses with government grants and tax incentives.
By Dr. Julianne Malveaux