No Bloody Monday Job Loss, But Minority Unemployment Filing Steady

On Dec. 26, 2009, I wondered whether the fourth Monday in January 2010 would be anything like the “Bloody Monday” we saw on January 26, 2009, when 65,400 job cuts were announced. Looking at the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data on employment for last month, it’s clear that no such repeat day occurred. But, what did happen with unemployment filing in January 2010?

Overall, the unemployment rate dropped three percent from 10 to 9.7 percent, according to the BLS’s Employment Situation Summary for January 2010. If you look at bit closer, though, there are some interesting statistics within that number.

The number of unemployed people in some major groups of workers – listed as adult men, teenagers, blacks and Hispanics – showed little change. By contrast, the rate of unemployment for adult women fell, as did unemployment filing for whites.

These statistics point out the tougher time minorities are having breaking into the job market, compared to other groups. What's at the root of this troubling trend – geography, social barriers, educational opportunities, all of the above or more?

A recent Washington Post article, “D.C. Regional Task Force Tackling Minority Unemployment Problem,” describes an effort in the District of Columbia to address the comparatively higher rates of minority unemployment in the District. In D.C., Maryland and Virginia, blacks and Hispanics are two to three times more likely to be unemployed than whites. Government leaders in these areas are addressing the issues with a focus on K-12 education. They want to get more children trained in job skills by the time they leave high school.

The Economic Policy Institute (EPI), a non-profit think tank located in Washington, D.C., recently took another angle on the issues of minority unemployment. EPI looked at the underemployment rate, meaning people who are working part time but would prefer full time work. In their report titled, “One in Four Black, Hispanic Workers is Underemployed” EPI found that the underemployment rate is much higher for black and Hispanic workers. For whites, the underemployment rate at the end of December 2009 was 14.6 percent. For blacks, it was 24.3 percent and for Hispanics it was 25.1 percent.

There is no magic solution to the problem of minority unemployment. From education and new job opportunities to greater awareness amongst the public, there is much to be done to improve the situation. Managing to escape job loss like we had on Bloody Monday last year is something to celebrate, but there is still much to be improved in our job market today.

What do you think we can do to get everyone, of all minority and non-minority statuses, working again? It’s a complicated issue but let’s think about solutions. Please leave a comment and tell me what you think would make a positive difference.