Tuesday, March 24, 2009
6576: Unemployed And Unequal…?
From The Miami Herald…
Unemployment hitting minorities harder
Hispanics and blacks are losing their jobs at a faster rate than the general population during the current recession.
By Jesse Washington, Associated Press
The ax fell without sound or shadow: Tatiana Gallego was suddenly called into human resources and laid off from her job as an admissions counselor for a fashion college.
“The way people tried to explain it to me was, I was the last one hired so I was the first one out,” said Gallego, 25, who had worked there for 17 months.
Last hired, first fired: This generations-old cliché rings bitterly true for millions of blacks and Hispanics who are losing jobs at a faster rate than the general population during this punishing recession.
Much of the disparity is due to a concentration of blacks and Hispanics in construction, blue-collar or service-industry jobs that have been decimated by the economic meltdown. And black unemployment has been about double the rate for whites since the government began tracking those categories in the early 1970s.
But this recession is cutting a swath through the professional classes as well, which can be devastating to people who recently arrived there.
Since the recession began in December 2007, Hispanic unemployment has risen 4.7 percentage points, to 10.9 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Black unemployment has risen 4.5 points, to 13.4 percent. White unemployment has risen 2.9 points, to 7.3 percent.
Gallego, whose parents were born in Colombia, graduated from the University of Rhode Island. Her mother is self-employed, and her stepfather works in construction.
She was stunned when she was told to leave by the end of the day because enrollment was down at her New York City school. She said she had recently received a positive performance review, and her bosses were planning to send her to a conference.
“Maybe I just don’t know that much about the business world, because I felt like I did more, I went above and beyond more than other people in my office did,” she said.
William Darity, a professor of economics and African-American studies at Duke University, said that “blacks and Latinos are relative latecomers to the professional world … so they are necessarily the most vulnerable.”
“We don’t have those older roots to anchor us in the professional world,” Darity said.
There are no recent government statistics that measure jobs lost by race and income. But Darity and others believe that professional Hispanics and blacks are more likely to lose their jobs in the recession.
“Many times blacks and Latinos are the last to be hired, so naturally they are first to be fired,” said Jerry Medley, who has been in the executive search business for 30 years.
“Not saying that it’s racism,” Medley said, “but if a manager or a senior executive is looking at a slate of individuals and has to let one of them go, chances are he or she will not let the person go that they spend a lot of time with at the country club or similar places.”
The less wealth you have, the harder unemployment hits. Darity cited 2002 data that showed black households with a median net worth of $6,000, Hispanic households with a median of $8,000, and white households with a median of $90,000.
Philip Salter was creative director for a Chicago advertising firm where about 75 percent of the revenue came from a contract with a Fortune 500 company to create ads targeted at minorities. When the firm lost that contract and two others, Salter’s job evaporated.
“When companies cut back their ad dollars, minority budgets are where they start,” said Salter, 62, who is black. “Unfortunately in this business, most clients just view [minority advertising] as an overlay or meeting an obligation that social organizations might place on them.”