Benita Johnson has a bachelor’s degree in public administration. She recently moved to a new city to take her first full-time career position: an entry-level job at a government housing agency . She is 52.
Johnson, who is African-American, says she has been working off and on since she was 14. She has worked for temporary clerical agencies, done in-home nursing assistance, and non-profit work and was employed by the Census Bureau in 2000 and 2010. But a long-term career position had eluded her. Johnson counts herself among millions of Americans who are chronically unemployed. In many cases, these Americans may not share her skill set, but they do share her race.
Official unemployment for African-Americans exceeded 17 percent in January 2010, nearly twice that of whites and 6 points higher than the nation as a whole. As talk of a quickening recovery filled the airwaves, the unemployment rate for African-Americans has since declined to 14 percent. But double-digit official unemployment has been the standard for decades. The economic crisis has shifted the nation’s focus to job creation, but within the African-American community, a 40-year crisis of economic insecurity and dreams deferred exists with solutions that are just as unclear.
Since 1972, when the government began collecting employment data by race and ethnicity, the unemployment rate for African-Americans has always exceeded that of their white counterparts by a about 2-to-1, even when taking into account national economic conditions and educational advancement for African-Americans. Read more.......