Are Minorities Getting Left Behind in Economic Recovery?

Following the recent recession, which left millions jobless and lacking financial security, job creation is finally returning to mid-2008 levels, as Gallup reports?gains in the job creation index in recent months. However, with each step toward improved employment, certain minority groups are falling further behind.

This is highlighted in the recently released Center for American Progress (CAP) report titled “The State of Communities of Color in the U.S. Economy: The Third Year of?the Recovery.”

Discrepancies in employment rates and job quality amongst racial groups were exacerbated by the economic collapse — and the gap has only continued to widen, according?to Christian Weller, a senior fellow at CAP and co-author of the report. As communities of color continue to grow in the U.S., greater numbers are suffering from the?effects of inequality.?

“Some inequities may have grown worse during the crisis and the subsequent recovery,” Weller said. “The U.S. population, however, is growing more diverse, and?persisting inequities are holding back an ever-larger share of the population.”?

African-Americans and Latinos, in particular, have consistently suffered from high unemployment rates. CAP reports that the number of unemployed African-Americans in?2011 rose to 15.5 percent from an already lofty 14.9 percent in 2009. A similar report from last year showed that African-American unemployment rates were consistently?higher than other racial groups even before the recession, never dropping below 9.2 percent since early 2008.?

While Latinos are making something of a recovery in terms of securing jobs, their unemployment rate is still roughly 50 percent greater than the rate for whites, and?their job opportunities are less than promising.?

“We see a lot of Latinos going back into low-wage sectors where they are not protected; where they may or may not get paid for a full day’s work; where they don’t have?access to benefits,” said Catherine Singley, senior policy analyst for the Economic and Employment Policy Project at the National Council of La Raza. While more jobs?are becoming available, equal opportunity for economic stability is still limited.?

This trend of economic inequity is nothing new. Historically, whites have consistently earned higher wages than minority groups and enjoyed more financial security?thanks to better jobs and policies that tend to benefit higher-income families.?

The root of this problem for Latinos is their restricted access to stable working options due in large part to a lack of education and job training, Singley said. One?out of three Latino adults does not have a high school diploma. Singley said studies estimate that by 2050 only 10 percent of all American jobs will be available to?workers without a diploma.?

Not only are minority groups often left out of the workforce for want of schooling and skills, they also have battled persistent discrimination in the labor market.?Many members of low-income African-American families are kept out of higher-paying positions and thus fall prey to high-cost lending, which keeps these workers in a?spiral of debt, said Cy Richardson, the National Urban League’s vice president of housing and community development.

Though the situation may look bleak, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Closer government attention to education and skills training may result in policies that?would also give minority groups a greater advantage coming into the labor market. Some of these policies are already on the table and may see attention soon as jobs?will be a central focus of the upcoming election.?

“The problem is that these policies have been unevenly applied and inconsistently championed,” Richardson said. Targeted legislation and advocacy will only be the?start to resolving the nation’s growing inequality in economic recovery.

Mohini Kundu is an editorial intern at Diversity Executive magazine. She can be reached at editor@diversity-executive.com.