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Half of Black men in New York City are without work
The jobless recovery

By Nicole Colson | March 19, 2004 | Page 2

THE BUSH administration's claim to have engineered an economic recovery that benefits working people is starting to look like a bigger lie than Iraq's nonexistent weapons of mass destruction. Earlier this month, the Labor Department reported that the economy added a paltry 21,000 new jobs in February--well below what economists had been predicting.

Department officials also revised downward the number of new jobs in December and January as well. The result? In the past six months, the economy gained an average of only 60,000 jobs a month--far below the monthly rate of 150,000 to 200,000 that is needed to absorb new workers entering the labor force.

Yet since June of last year, the official unemployment rate has fallen substantially--nearly half a percentage point--from a high of 6 percent. How is this possible?

The simple answer is that the long-term jobless are dropping out of the workforce--and therefore aren't counted by the official statistics--at a faster pace than jobs are being created. The real unemployment rate--counting people of working age who don't have a paid job--is incredibly high, especially among minorities.

In fact, nearly half of Black men in New York City aged 16 to 64 are without a job, according to a stunning report issued by the Community Service Society, a nonprofit group that advocates for the poor. The organization's analysis of Labor Department statistics from 2000 through this year found that the "employment population ratio"--the percentage of the working-age population with a paid job--for Black men in New York City dropped to just 51.8 percent.

The ratio for white men in New York was 75.7 percent and 65.7 for Latinos. According to study author Mark Levitan, the employment population ratio for Black men was the lowest for any period since 1979. Yet the official unemployment rate for African Americans stands at 11 percent--double the rate for whites, but far below Levitan's findings.

The difference is in the number of people who simply aren't counted in the official statistics because they have given up on finding employment. "You're really talking about a long-term problem among low-skilled, disadvantaged men," Lawrence M. Mead, a professor of political science at New York University, told the New York Times.

"Blacks are disproportionately disadvantaged. You're seeing this tendency to drop out. It's very serious, and nobody has an answer." As New York Times columnist Bob Herbert concluded, "A favorite metaphor associated with an expanding U.S. economy is 'A rising tide lifts all boats.' Right now, a lot of the boats have leaks, and they are taking on water fast."

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