Economic Recovery a Longer Struggle for Blacks and Hispanics

Racial and ethnic gaps persist in unemployment rates.

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While educational attainment is an important factor in finding employment, the education system will not provide the fastest route out of the "race-cession," according to Catherine Singley, a senior policy analyst at the National Council on La Raza, a Latino advocacy organization. Rather, she says, education in the form of job training would be far more effective. Most of the country's unemployed people, says Singley, are "adults who have aged out of the system, who are not going back to school." She adds, "We need to broaden the scope and think about who's already in the labor market and how to match them with the right training."

According to Hilary Shelton, director of the Washington Bureau of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, if such immediate steps are not taken, the long-term effects of the employment crisis could be greater than simple earnings figures. Shelton says that persistent unemployment now could set up entire communities to be shut out of the job market in the future. Young African-Americans have particularly high unemployment figures. According to the most recent available data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, blacks ages 16 to 24 experienced 33.4 percent unemployment in July 2010, compared with 19.1 percent for all 16-to-24-year-olds. Shelton also notes that young African-American men, and particularly those in some inner cities, face unemployment rates of 50 percent or higher. Being unable to find work now is stalling these entire demographic groups, he says: "If you go into a beginning-level position at a job, you see yourself moving up, acquiring more skills, being able to work towards making more money, and planning for a stable future and family." Without work now, says Shelton, these young people are set up for years of difficulties.

Politicians may constantly acknowledge the need for job growth, but Singley does not expect meaningful action anytime soon. "In Congress and in city halls, there's a lot of talk about jobs, but there aren't a lot of ideas and concrete policies being advanced," she says. Indeed, members of Congress and President Obama are currently spending their energy on the budget and the debt ceiling. But once 2012 campaigns begin in earnest, jobs will certainly become an even bigger part of the national dialogue. As any politician knows, an unemployed voter is an unhappy voter, regardless of race.

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