BY CASH MICHAELS
OF THE WILMINGTON JOURNAL
In a shocking report released just last week, despite clear signs that North Carolina is in an economic recovery, African-American unemployment in the Tar Heel state was 17.3 percent – one in six black workers – during the fourth quarter of 2012.
Overall during that same period, the state’s rate was 9.2 percent (compared to 7.8 percent nationally).
The bad news doesn’t stop there. According to the Economic Policy Institute report, “Unemployment Rates Are Projected to Remain High for Whites, Latinos and African-Americans,” not only is the NC black jobless rate a full 3.3 percentage points worse that the estimated national black unemployment rate of 14.0, but it also gives the Tar Heel state the fourth highest rate of African-American joblessness among the top 24 states with significant black populations in the nation.
Only Michigan (18.7%), New Jersey and Illinois have greater, though not by much. Louisiana, at 9.5 percent, had the lowest.
Interestingly, black unemployment hovered between 17 to 20 percent between the first quarter of 2010 through the first quarter of 2012, hitting a high of 20.1 percent in the third quarter of 2011.
But the news gets even worse. In North Carolina, white unemployment during that same period stood at 6.7 percent 9in the fourth quarter of 2009, it was a high 9.5 percent). Because blacks and Hispanics are most likely to live in impoverished areas of the state, their unemployment rates are expected to be high.
But researchers say even there, there is a huge discrepancy. While blacks without work in North Carolina register at 17.3 percent, Hispanic unemployment is only slightly larger than white joblessness.
The Latino unemployment rate in North Carolina stands only at 7.4 percent, almost a full 10 points less.
“African-American families [in North Carolina] continue to bear the brunt of that pain,” write Mary Gable and Douglas Hall in the Economic Policy Institute report. They maintain that the racial jobless disparity has maintained since the “Great Recession” that hit the nation starting in 2007, and continued on for the next five years.
The black rate has been two-and-a-half times that of whites in the state for at least the last three years, the report continues.
So why is this happening?
The Economic Policy Report states that federal and state budget cuts have disproportionately impacted black and Hispanic families in the state. Many African-Americans, over-represented in state, county and city public-sector employment, lost those jobs during the recession when government began cutting back.
That one factor has apparently affected blacks more than Latinos, who were not as prominent working in the public sector.
Add to that that blacks and Hispanics are most likely to live in areas of North Carolina where industry is in the decline, like the east where poverty is near 20 percent, if not more, and the case for high unemployment begins to stack up.
North Carolina has had the second highest loss of manufacturing jobs since 1995, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Allan Freyer, public policy analyst for the NC Budget and Tax Center in Raleigh, says the NC General Assembly is making the dire unemployment situation for African –Americans worse by cutting off funding to nonprofit economic development groups that help create jobs in black and rural communities.
State Rep. Garland Pierce [D-Hoke], chairman of the NC Legislative Black Caucus, agrees.
“Earlier this week, the NC Senate released its 2014-2015 proposed budget plan,” Rep. Pierce said at a press conference Wednesday. “Components of the budget eliminated funding for organizations including the Community Development Initiative, the Institute for Minority Economic Development and Land Loss Prevention. Now is not the time to eliminate funding for programs that are providing resources for job creation in our state’s most economically distressed communities.”