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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

For African-Americans 'safe' middle class incomes with government jobs are ending

Photo Credit-Google Images
African-American employment in government
jobs have fell victim to the economic recession,
with jobs decrease among this ethnic group.
One of the 'safer' positions for employment in the African-American community, besides working for one of the ‘Big Three’ automobile manufacturers up until the Recession of 2007, was working in a governmental job.

In the wake of recession, federal, state and local government agencies are paring down payrolls and eliminating positions, which have sustained one route to the African-American community middle class dreams for decades. 

Following the consolidation trend of the ‘Big Three’ before President Obama’s government bailout of General Motors and Chrysler, since 2008, a whopping 375,000 government jobs have been eliminated, according to the Labor Department.

In Michigan, African-Americans have experienced unemployment rates either 20 percent or higher in virtually every quarter since early 2009; including holding on to a 2010 annual unemployment rate of 23.4 percent. 

In 2009, Seven General Motors plants closed in Michigan, including towns will high-to-medium African-American populations Ypsilanti, Pontiac and Flint. 
"One of the engines of the black middle class has been the auto sector," says John Schmitt, an economist who studies the issue at the Center for Economic and Policy Researchto USA Today. 
"In the late 1970s, one of every 50 African Americans in the U.S. was working in the auto sector. These jobs were the best jobs. Particularly for African Americans who had migrated from the South, these were the culmination of a long upward trajectory of economic mobility."

These cuts along with consolidation in governmental job opportunities fall with marked impact on African Americans. Nearly 21% of the nation’s working black adults work in governmental jobs, compared to some 17% of white workers and 15% of Latinos.

Public agencies are the single largest employer for African-American men, who are top ethnic group facing joblessness in the nation, with an 16.2 unemployment rate for May 2011. Governmental jobs are the second most common employment opportunity for African-American women.

Continuing cuts to federal, state and local government budgets eliminating cutting jobs, expose a vulnerability on why African-American workers have disproportionate fared worse than other ethnic groups in the U.S. population since recession’s so-called ending in 2009. Joblessness among African-Americans in May 2011 reached 16.2%, up a shocking 15.5% from 2010.

In contrast, Caucasian-American unemployment registered at 8% as a whole in May, allowing this ethnic group an improvement from the jobless 8.8 percent level in 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics report.

Losing work related government paychecks is eroding one of the great equalizing forces in the American economy for more than a century, for the African-American community. A government job has long offered a pathway for Americans of all races, to equality sidestep discrimination that has existed ‘under the surface’ in the private sector. 
"(These are) many of the black people you don’t hear about on the news, the black people who own homes, who can afford to send their children to college and have modest savings, many of them worked for some branch of government before the recession began," said Steven Pitts, a labor economist at the University of California, Berkeley’s Center for Labor Research and Education to the Huffington Post. 
"There is good reason to be very concerned about what will happen when this work disappears," Pitts noted.

Most major American cities have been eliminating government jobs, as a budget cutting measure, over the last three years. Local governments have shed 446,000 employees since employment in the sector hit its peak in September 2008. These same agencies plan to cut nearly 500,000 jobs more over the next two years, according to a national survey of governments.

With the high rate of employment of African-Americans in governmental positions, these cuts will impact disproportionately on African Americans, adding to this group extreme rate of joblessness. 

It’s not a lost political fact, that African Americans in the government workforce makes them a useful target for some politicians, particularly Republicans, as a majority of the African-American vote trends overwhelmingly Democratic and government workers are usually heavily unionized. The ethnic group largely receives political clout though dues to large union based organizations like the AFL-CIO, AFCSME, Teamsters and teacher unionized organizations, nationwide.
"In some states I think it’s a power play, pure and simple," said Lee Saunders, secretary treasurer of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, a public sector union, and the son of a union bus driver to the Huffington Post. 
"In some sort of sick way, some of these ultra conservatives think that if you hurt African-Americans and they are laid off and can't find work that there may be negative implications for the 2012 presidential election. If you have a lot of people who are frustrated, maybe it is going to be very hard to get your base out to vote," Sanders cited.
Former African-American government employee Kenneth Mathis age 55, used his recent job loss as a chance to focus on gaining new skills. Mathis worked for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation as a young individual and, then for the city of Houston, TX Housing and Community Development Department, until he laid off in 2007.

He resumed studies toward an MBA, graduating in January 2011. In February, he also started up a trio of online retail businesses, selling essential oils and gifts over the Internet. Mathis stated Huffington Post that the business have not turned a profit yet, but intermittent contract work he has gained on a temporary basis, has given him a bit of money to help promote the sites.

Mathis is at the reluctant edge of a new trend in the African-American community. A part of a growing ethnic group who has lost the safety net of a public sector job and are now scrambling to replace the income, or a hesitant yet eager, fledgling member of the unpredictable business world.
"Probably, many more of us who are going to have to become entrepreneurs," he said. "Pray, let it ride, and see what happens."

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