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Brimmer predicts growth in black income and employment-but large gaps remain

The vigorous growth of the U.S. economy in 1997 brought moderate improvements in the employment and income of black Americans, says economist Andrew Brimmer. A former member of the Federal Reserve Board who recently stepped down from the post of chairman of the D.C. Financial Responsibility and Management Assistance Authority, Brimmer predicts further gains throughout the year. However, the jobs and income deficits that blacks experience will remain wide.

Brimmer says there was an average of 15.5 million blacks in the civilian labor force in 1997, making up 11.4% of the total. Blacks held 14 million jobs, accounting for 10.8% of total employment. “Yet, if blacks enjoyed job parity, where our total employment equaled our share of the civilian labor force, we would have held 14.7 million jobs,” he explains.

In 1998, Brimmer forecasts that the number of blacks in the civilian labor force will rise to 15.8 million, with black employment rising to 14.3 million jobs, representing 10.9% of the total employed–leaving the gap in job parity virtually unchanged at just over 5%.

Brimmer confirms that, last year, the total money income of
black Americans did indeed break the $400 billion mark, rising to an estimated $428.3 billion. That progress is expected to continue this year, as Brimmer projects total money income for blacks to rise to $459 billion. However, if the African American share of total money income was proportional to their share of the population, says Brimmer, “parity income for blacks would amount to $611.1 billion. So the income deficit may amount to $152 billion.”

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