Jobs Crisis Remains for Low-Income Communities

Apr 03, 2010

 

By Elizabeth Lower-Basch

Although the latest unemployment report revealed long awaited job growth, the nation's jobs situation is still far from rosy.  Long-term unemployment inched up as did the number of underemployed workers. Further, low-skill workers and communities of color continue to have considerably higher unemployment rates that threaten the well-being of children, families, communities and the economy as a whole. Some key points:

  • For the third straight month, the nation's unemployment average is 9.7 percent, and the economy added 123,000 jobs.
  • The number of workers who have been out of work for 27 or more weeks climbed by 414,000 and now stands at 6.5 million, or about 43 percent of the unemployed.
  • The number of workers who are working part-time because they can't find full-time employment inched up and is now 9.1 million.
  • The unemployment rate for African Americans climbed from 15.8 percent in February to 16.5 percent in March and for Hispanics the rate inched up from 12.4 percent to 12.6 percent.

All of the statistics are troubling and indicate that the nation has a long way to go before it gets back on track. According to a recent report by the Economic Policy Institute, the nation's 8.4 million jobs lost since the recession began in December 2007 combined with the 2.7 million jobs the economy should have created to keep up with job growth has resulted in a real loss of 11.1 million jobs. This means the pace of job growth would have to accelerate exponentially for the job market to return in a year or two to the same level as 2007.

Policy Solutions

When Congress returns to session, it should act immediately to extend unemployment insurance benefits and health care subsidies. It should also focus on job creation strategies that target workers who have been most severely affected by the jobs crisis.

Low-skill workers such as those without a high school diploma, for example, have an unemployment rate that is about 50 percent higher than the national average. As employers create jobs, these workers may require training or education to qualify for the positions. In Creating Work and Learning Opportunities for Low-Income Populations, CLASP outlines how the public Workforce Investment and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families systems can be used to create work opportunities for low-income, unemployed workers.

 

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