Commentary: Blacks Lag in New York's Job Renaissance

Numbers show that, despite the fact that New York City has regained all the jobs it lost in the recession and then some, Blacks aren’t coming back in the same way as others.

Posted: 06/21/2012 03:43 PM EDT
Unemployment still a serious issue for Blacks in New York.

Throughout much of the United States, unemployment remains a serious issue for families and individuals. The situation in New York City, however, is a bit different. In New York state as a whole, 95 percent of the jobs lost during the recession have now been recovered.

“The state added more than 312,000 jobs over the past two post-recession years, accounting for 94.6 percent of the jobs lost during the recession,” wrote Albany reporter Aaron Scholder at the end of May.

In New York City, the outlook is even rosier. Not only has the Big Apple regained all the private-sector jobs it had lost in the recession; it’s also gained a lot more.

“New York City has regained approximately 180 percent of the private sector jobs lost during the recession, while the rest of the country has only gained back only approximately 40 percent,” read a city press statement issued in May. “The city has now recovered all jobs lost during the recession and private employment in the city has reached an all-time record high at 3.291 million, surpassing the previous record in 1969 of 3.275 million.”

But while the job situation for New Yorkers overall is looking nice and healthy, there’s one group that’s being left out of the renaissance: Black people.

In a new article, the New York Times’ Patrick McGeehan breaks it down:

More than half of all of African-Americans and other non-Hispanic blacks in the city who were old enough to work had no job at all this year, according to an analysis of employment data compiled by the federal Labor Department. And when black New Yorkers lose their jobs, they spend a full year, on average, trying to find new jobs — far longer than New Yorkers of other races.

Throughout the rest of America, Blacks are finding jobs far more easily than they were a year ago. But that’s not so in New York, due in large part to the fact that African-Americans were disproportionately hit by declines in public-sector employment — public sector jobs aren’t the ones that are coming back right now.

“African-Americans in New York City basically inhabit the middle market in the labor force in terms of wages and education, not the low end,” an economist for the city told the Times. “And the middle market has been weak.”

Still, some African-Americans who are unemployed in New York believe their race to be a factor. One woman with a degree in marketing told McGeehan that she thinks she’s been passed over because she’s Black and overweight, leading employers to think she’s lazy.

While there are indeed problems with Black unemployment that extend to the decimation of the public sector, it’s worth noting many studies have shown qualified Black applicants are passed over in favor of whites, even in places such as “liberal” New York. Here’s just one study’s results:

Some of the study’s findings are depressingly familiar. For instance, young white high school graduates were twice as likely to receive positive responses from New York employers as equally qualified black job seekers. It also reaffirmed not only that former prisoners are at a distinct disadvantage in the job market, but also that, again, black ex-prisoners are in a much worse position: positive responses from employers towards white applicants with a criminal record dipped 35 percent, while for black applicants similarly situated it plummeted 57 percent.

However, the study revealed that our society’s racism extends even deeper: black applicants with no criminal record were no more likely to get a job than white applicants with criminal records just released from prison!


That study was conducted in New York.

When whites with criminal records are getting hired over equally qualified Blacks with no record whatsoever, you have to know it’s not just, as the city economist said, “the weak middle market.”


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