April 10, 2009

Minority Workers At A Disadvantage As Unemployment Rises

Washington, DC—Citing March 2009 figures released today by the U.S. Department of Labor, four national organizations called attention to the dire situation facing African American and Latino workers, who are suffering the most dramatic rise in unemployment compared to all other groups. The National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the Center for American Progress (CAP), the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs (AFOP), and the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) have joined together to highlight the growing labor market disparities between minorities and their peers.

In March, 13.2 million workers were unemployed. The overall unemployment rate rose to 8.5%, up from 8.1% in February. For White workers, the March unemployment rate was 7.9%, while it reached 11.4% for Latinos and 13.3% for Blacks.

“With unemployment rates for Blacks and Hispanics above 10%—nearly double the rate for Whites—the current recession is clearly demonstrating just how precarious the economic situation is for many minorities. It will take many months before the economy gets back on track, but President Obama is starting to put in place the policies necessary to create good jobs and higher wages, laying the foundation for long-term, broadly shared economic growth,” said David Madland, Director of the American Worker Project at CAP.

“Even in the best of times, minority workers struggle to access high-quality jobs due to low education, skills, and English language levels,” said Janet Murguía, NCLR President and CEO. “As we look forward to economic recovery, the stakes are especially high for Latinos because they are the fastest-growing segment of the workforce. NCLR is calling upon state and local governments to make sure that resources aimed at jump-starting the economy are used to improve job opportunities for African Americans and Hispanics.”

“America continues to shed jobs at an alarming rate. Overall unemployment has not been this high since 1983, and we are in the midst of what will be a long and deep recession. Yet, African American, Latino and foreign-born workers all have unemployment rates well over 10%—leaving those minority workers experiencing what is more accurately described as a depression,” said Christian Dorsey, Interim Communications Director at EPI. “Congress passed a stimulus package that looks to create around 3.5 million jobs, half of what is needed to keep pace with lost jobs and additions to the labor force. Clearly, there is more work left to do.”

Funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA)—which the White House has said will create or save 3.5 million jobs over the next two years—are just beginning to be distributed to states and local communities, so the jobs numbers may not reflect the impact of the legislation for some months.

“The new job-loss figures are especially bad news for our nation’s migrant and seasonal farmworkers. They rely on us to help them get trained and placed into jobs that, unlike farm work, allow them to earn a living wage. Today’s data make it clear that it will be increasingly more difficult to help farmworkers get out of poverty and realize the American Dream,” said David Strauss, Executive Director of AFOP.

“Our goal is ‘full steam ahead’ for our economy. That cannot be achieved unless African American and Latino workers are an integral part of states’ plans for implementing the economic recovery legislation,” said Murguía. “We are counting on states to use the resources provided by ARRA in ways that reach minority workers and the community organizations that serve them.”

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