Unemployment in Black Cities: Loop21 Explores NYC
1 year ago
As part of our continuing series, we look at black unemployment in New York.
“New York, New York, it’s a helluva town…” go the lyrics to the old song. But New York can also be hellacious in terms of race and jobs. Overwhelmingly, it’s people of color who tend to be out of work rather than those of other ethnicities.
This is a tough situation given that the city has far and away the highest black population of any one place in America. All told, black New Yorkers number over 2.2 million people (including those of mixed race), according to the government’s 2010 census. This figure is more than twice that of Chicago, three-plus times Philadelphia’s level and nearly four times higher than Detroit’s. Granted, NYC is a crowded place but even considering that factor, the black presence is considerable - people of color constitute 27% of the city’s total population. In other words, more than one in four New Yorkers is at least partially African-American.
It’s easy to come across these people because a great many of them aren’t tied down by a job. This isn’t unusual for the city – it’s burdened by a high population, it has large areas (like many neighborhoods in the Bronx) still in the grip of poverty, and its core areas are expensive and thus not financially advantageous for employers to operate in. As it has, by far, the biggest population of any municipality in New York State, it tends to drag the state down with it. The numbers tell the tale – overall unemployment in America stood at 8.3% this past January; according to preliminary figures from its labor department New York State was nearly a full percentage point higher at 9.2%, while NYC was higher still, at an even 10%.
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So on a percentage basis relative to its state and its country, New York City has fewer jobs. The tragedy is, like in most parts of this nation, the burden of that shortfall rests heavily on the African-American community. An analysis by the state comptroller’s office revealed that people of color suffered an unemployment rate of 14.2% in the third quarter of 2011, more than double the 6.6% rate for whites. The black figure was very much the worst among the various ethnic groups; Hispanics had only 7.8% while the rate for “Asian and other” stood at 7.2%. In fact, blacks had nearly the highest rate out of all categories, be they grouped by age, race, borough or level of employment. The only demographic that topped the African-American 14.2% was young workers 16 to 24 years of age, with a level of 16.9%.
Although the ratio of black to white unemployment is only slightly higher than the national figure (NYC’s 3Q ratio was 2.15, while for America overall throughout 2011 it was 2.0), it’s still much too fat for comfort. People of color are an important thread in the pan-racial cloth of New York City; it’s too bad they’re often shut out of its job market.