Blacks Suffer When Uncle Sam and Other Public Entities Shed Workers

Once supposedly lifetime positions are now precarious and their loss affects communities.

Posted: 06/08/2011 08:00 AM EDT
Filed Under unemployment

African-Americans have long flocked to public sector jobs, whether in a town, county, state or the federal government. During, and after, segregation, landing such a position was often the best job available, as most private sector posts outside the Black community were not available.


The public job faucet is still flowing but lessened to a degree that hits Black adults, who hold 21.2 percent of all government jobs, more harshly. Public sector layoffs have a strong impact on the Black unemployment rate—which was 16.2 percent in May—as Black and other workers, to their shock, lost their government positions.


Since 2009, Steven Pitts, a labor policy specialist at the University of California-Berkeley’s Center for Labor Research and Education reported in his recent study, Black Workers and the Public Sector, 429,000 state and local workers have been laid off. Further, the Labor Department reports that at least 375,000 federal jobs were slashed in the past three years.


Pitts says in his report that “the public sector is the single most important source of employment for African Americans.” By contrast, only 15 percent of Hispanics (who can be of any race) and 17 percent of whites hold government positions.


The Black loss of a government position is not just a personal problem. When that check is gone, mortgages, school tuitions, car notes, credit cards and all the others uses of that cash are gone too, and the impact on African-American communities is great.

(Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)