Reading articles like this one from AP Economics, the unemployment situation seems bad. And it is. But like most media, the article fails to see the disparities which complicate these grim statistics – disparities that have persisted even before this situation was labeled “recession.”
The current Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers: 8.1%, 651,000 jobs eliminated. However, among Hispanic workers unemployment is 10.9%, and for black workers is 13.4%. While the unemployment rate increased .4% for white workers from January to February, the rate was twice that for black workers (.8% increase) and three times that for Hispanic workers (1.2% increase). Such rates are sure to disproportionately affect urban areas with high concentrations of black and Latino workers, areas where many workers are already isolated. Connecticut cities, such as Hartford, Bridgeport and New Haven, were feeling the crunch before the so-called recession. These disparities complicate matters, and the continued lack of media attention adds to the economic isolation.
If 8.1% is crisis level unemployment, then where were the alarms last year, February 2008 when black unemployment was 8.4%? A year ago, Hispanic unemployment was a 6.3%. Anything over 6% is generally cause for concern – for the general population, that is. One year ago the white unemployment rate was 4.4%. Today it is 7.3%.
Rates of unemployment for black and Hispanic workers have consistently been higher than the average. Yet, it’s only when white unemployment rates climb over 6 or 7 % that the news media pays significant attention.
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