Sunday, August 14, 2011

Black Employment | Back to the 1970s

- Halfway to Nowhere

- Larry Walker, Jr. -

One of the figures that stood out in the July 2011 Employment Situation Report was that Black labor force participation had declined to 60.4%, or to the same level attained in March of 1973, from a rate of 63.2% in January of 2009. The rate has fluctuated between a record low of 58.5% during 1975, to a record high of 66.4% in 1999. It stood at 63.4% in December of 2007, the first month of the Great Recession, and clocked in at 62.6% when the recession ended in June of 2009. In fact, the rate hasn’t dropped below 62.0% since May of 1984. But since February of 2009, the Black labor force participation rate has declined by 2.8 percentage points, and most of that decline, 1.7 points to be precise, has occurred since the beginning of 2011. So why did Black labor force participation suddenly plummet during Obama’s 3rd year in office, over two years after the recession ended?

Black labor force participation rate – The labor force participation rate measures the labor force as a percent of the civilian non-institutional population.

From Black Employment - July 2011

Why hasn’t a Black White House resident correlated with improvement in the lives of Black and African American people, or anyone else for that matter? It's one thing to be giddy that a Black man made it into the White House, but entirely another when you take a look around the community. The fact that the Black labor force participation rate has fallen back to 1970s levels, and exclusively on Obama’s watch, either means that his policies aren’t working; or that they are, but just in reverse.

For example, does the act of extending unemployment benefits to an historic 99-weeks mesh with increasing labor force participation? Is the act of handing out record amounts in government food stamps somehow in lock-step with prosperity? Does legislation providing a $50,000, per unemployed household, government subsidy to cover mortgage payments for up to two years help get folks back to work? Will Obama's policies of doling out record amounts of unemployment, food stamps, and $50,000 per household mortgage subsidies, concurrently, lead us out of the ditch, or over a cliff? When ‘shovel ready’ turned out not be so shovel ready, it appears that this was Obama’s Plan B.

The Black employment-population ratio is also at 1970s levels; while the Black unemployment rate, although not the worst ever recorded, has averaged 15.6% since February of 2009.

Black employment-population ratio (Current Population Survey) – The proportion of the civilian non-institutional population aged 16 years and over that is employed.

The Black employment-population ratio has fluctuated between a record low of 48.8% from December of 1982 through January of 1983, to a record high of 61.4% in April of 2000. It stood at 57.7% in December of 2007, the first month of the Great Recession, was 55.2% in January of 2009, and clocked in at 53.3% when the recession ended in June of 2009. It has since declined to 50.8% as of July of 2011, a decline of 4.4 percentage points since Obama’s inauguration.

From Black Employment - July 2011

Black unemployment rate – The unemployment rate represents the number unemployed as a percent of the labor force.

The Black unemployment rate has fluctuated between a record low of 7.0% in April of 2000, to a record high of 21.1% in January of 1983. It stood at 9.0% in December of 2007, the first month of the Great Recession, was 12.7% in January of 2009, and clocked in at 14.9% when the recession ended in June of 2009. It has risen to 15.9% as of July of 2011, an increase of 3.2 percentage points since Obama’s inauguration.

From Black Employment - July 2011

At a fundraiser in Chicago on August 3, 2010, Barack Obama remarked, “…But the thing that we all ought to remember is that as much as good as we have done, precisely because the challenges were so daunting, precisely because we were inheriting so many challenges, that we’re not even halfway there yet. When I said ‘change we can believe in’ I didn‘t say ’change we can believe in tomorrow.’ Not change we can believe in next week.”

Well, it’s been about two and a half years already, so if they’re not even halfway “there” yet, does that mean it will take another 3, 4, 5, or 40 years? And exactly what does Obama mean by, “we’re” and “there”? Who is we, and where is there? It looks to me like our nation is around three-fourths of the way to declaring bankruptcy; the economy is maybe four-fifths of the way towards a depression, and the labor force statistics for Black and African Americans have receded to levels not seen since the 1970s and early 1980s.

So if I’m reading this correctly, as long as Obama has the bully pulpit, change will kick-in after my girls graduate from college, but not right now when it’s needed? Just wait a few more years, after my twin granddaughter’s start pre-school, but not now, two month’s before their birth, when my son needs it, eh? Heck, it may take another 40 years just to fill in the trench Obama has dug. I guess since ‘shovel ready’ wasn’t as shovel ready as he thought, and since “we’re not even halfway there”, unemployment benefits will have to be extended for another 99 weeks, while those who are able to endure carry the water. Heck, we might as well extend unemployment benefits for the rest of Obama’s term, since according to most of today's Democratic Party, unemployment compensation and food stamps add more to the economy than the private sector anyway?

Obama has turned this economy around alright -- back to the 1970s. Now he wants another four years, after he campaigns his way through the remainder of this term? Thanks, but no thanks. Every policy he’s put on the table has failed. The fact that he lost the USA’s triple-A credit rating, through devil-may-care spending, ought to say it all. What would the USA’s credit rate be after another term, since he’s only halfway there, BBB? Four more years to bobble his head from one teleprompter to the other, lecturing us on bugged out Socialist ideals from decades past, yeah right! If his plans don’t work in the real world, it may be that they are simply outdated. I say it’s time for Conservatives to take the horns of this democracy, and make a quick U-turn.

Halfway to nowhere – Heck, Obama’s policies might be succeeding beyond our wildest dreams, but we just can’t see it. Maybe where we get confused is when we open our eyes and look around. After all, he never said it was change we would be able to see, or change that would actually occur. He merely said it would be something intangible, an idea that we could believe in. In other words, a fairy tale, a chimera of the way we wish things were, but know they could never be. A world where electricity is generated without power plants, where heating oil rains down like manna from heaven, and where a big government hands us everything we need. But when we keep it in the day, and open our eyes, what do we see? - An incompetent, partisan, rascal, spouting half-truths, and railing away at his enemy, which turns out to be at least half of America.

"The best social program is a good job." ~Bill Clinton

"I do not believe we can repair the basic fabric of society until people who are willing to work have work. Work organizes life. It gives structure and discipline to life." ~Bill Clinton

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘press on’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” ~Calvin Coolidge

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Definitions:

  • Labor force (Current Population Survey) - The labor force includes all persons classified as employed or unemployed in accordance with the definitions contained in this glossary.

  • Civilian non-institutional population (Current Population Survey) - Included are persons 16 years of age and older residing in the 50 States and the District of Columbia who are not inmates of institutions (for example, penal and mental facilities, homes for the aged), and who are not on active duty in the Armed Forces.

  • Employed persons (Current Population Survey) - Persons 16 years and over in the civilian non-institutional population who, during the reference week, (a) did any work at all (at least 1 hour) as paid employees; worked in their own business, profession, or on their own farm, or worked 15 hours or more as unpaid workers in an enterprise operated by a member of the family; and (b) all those who were not working but who had jobs or businesses from which they were temporarily absent because of vacation, illness, bad weather, childcare problems, maternity or paternity leave, labor-management dispute, job training, or other family or personal reasons, whether or not they were paid for the time off or were seeking other jobs. Each employed person is counted only once, even if he or she holds more than one job. Excluded are persons whose only activity consisted of work around their own house (painting, repairing, or own home housework) or volunteer work for religious, charitable, and other organizations.

  • Unemployed persons (Current Population Survey) - Persons aged 16 years and older who had no employment during the reference week, were available for work, except for temporary illness, and had made specific efforts to find employment sometime during the 4-week period ending with the reference week. Persons who were waiting to be recalled to a job from which they had been laid off need not have been looking for work to be classified as unemployed.

  • Not in the labor force (Current Population Survey) - Includes persons aged 16 years and older in the civilian non-institutional population who are neither employed nor unemployed in accordance with the definitions contained in this glossary. Information is collected on their desire for and availability for work, job search activity in the prior year, and reasons for not currently searching. (See Marginally Attached Workers.)

  • Marginally Attached Workers (Current Population Survey) - Persons not in the labor force who want and are available for work, and who have looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months (or since the end of their last job if they held one within the past 12 months), but were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey. Discouraged workers are a subset of the marginally attached. (See Discouraged Workers.)

  • Discouraged Workers (Current Population Survey) - Persons not in the labor force who want and are available for a job and who have looked for work sometime in the past 12 months (or since the end of their last job if they held one within the past 12 months), but who are not currently looking because they believe there are no jobs available or there are none for which they would qualify.

References:

Data Tables

http://www.bls.gov/bls/glossary.htm

http://stats.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.t02.htm

http://stats.bls.gov/webapps/legacy/cpsatab2.htm

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