to turn around soon. In fact, Brimmer forecasts that by the end of 2005, the unemployment rate will still hover around 5.5%.
It was believed that President George W. Bush’s $1.6 trillion tax cut would jump-start the economy, but it has yet to deliver. Jaynes says that the money from the tax cut went to wealthy families, but it didn’t get reinvested, produce growth and prosperity, or, more importantly, generate higher incomes for everybody else. So as a result, the signs concerning employment still read “NO HELP WANTED.”
“Labor-saving devices” aside, the economists believe that African American workers have yet another obstacle to overcome in their pursuit of employment in today’s economic climate — racial discrimination.
“If you don’t look at race, it’s hard to explain why you get a 2:1 unemployment rate for African Americans compared to whites,” Spriggs says.
“The losses in manufacturing don’t account for it. We lost so many manufacturing jobs during the last recession that whites were more likely than blacks to be in manufacturing as this recession began. The black-white 2 to 1 jobless ratio also held in the recessions of the 1960s, when the education gap was huge and about 28% of blacks were high school graduates and whites were 49%. Today the ratio is much smaller — 79% to 82% — and the jobless ratio is still 2 to 1. In one generation, the numbers totally [changed], but that didn’t change the unemployment ratio. Race must be a factor.”
So what are black job seekers to do, especially during an election year
when candidates from both camps are pushing platforms that suggest job creation over the next several years but offer no guarantees?
The Board of Economists also point out that African Americans need to find ways to employ one another instead of depending on someone else to do it for them. Spriggs and Williams suggest pressuring newly elected officials to incorporate “meaningful enforcement of civil rights at the hiring decision.” Jaynes agrees but cautions African Americans to consider how discrimination has changed with regard to the workplace.
“If we went back three or four decades, who paid the highest cost for discrimination? It would be the most highly educated, well-trained black people. They are the ones who were shut out from any kind of employment that was anything like their capabilities,” Jaynes says. “[But] that has flipped now. Opportunities are available for the most educated, the best trained people.”
KEEPING BUSINESSES AFLOAT
The economic challenges facing African American entrepreneurs are just as daunting as those facing black workers. Boston says two hurdles confronting black businesses are the skyrocketing cost of providing healthcare to their employees and access to bonding — a basic requirement of business owners to secure contracts.
The government, at one time poised to extend sizable financial support to black businesses, has now retreated from policies focused on assisting small and minority-owned enterprises. Williams says most corporations still have affirmative action programs in procurement contracts. Nevertheless, the courts have struck down minority set-asides and affirmative action programs at all levels of government.